Work to restore a Flowery Branch landmark has gotten under way.
Best Buy Quality Foods, which had sat dormant after it was gutted by fire in July 2007, could reopen early next year, said Alpharetta-based architect Richard Debban, who has worked with store owner Ahmed Ghulam on the project.
"Finally, finally, Lord have mercy," Debban said.
Ghulam bought the store two years ago from the Atkinson family, which operated the nearly 50-year-old store for 25 years.
The store at Atlanta Highway and Phil Niekro Boulevard kept drawing faithful customers even as growth was bringing supermarkets to the area. It was known for its meat counter, narrow aisles and dated interior.
The fire caused about $500,000 in damage to the inside of the 4,500-square-foot store, which was valued at $1.4 million.
A store manager, Ansar M. Choudry, was charged with arson. At the time, authorities alleged that he tried to cover up the theft of several thousand dollars from the grocery store by setting fire to it.
Choudry was indicted on arson charges in December and remains free on $20,000 bond pending trial.
The store sat boarded up for months, with a sign at the gas pumps advertising $2.78 per gallon for unleaded gas.
Over the summer, Ghulam sought permits for renovation work at the store.
The project will consist of "new coolers, new freezers; just a whole new inside," Debban has said.
The registers and aisles will be reconfigured as part of the new design, he added.
The store also will feature "new flooring, ceiling, heating, lighting, air conditioning, plumbing, updated bathrooms," Debban said. "It’s very tedious work."
The building’s white brick exterior will remain the same for now, as Ghulam "can’t afford to do much more than that at this point," Debban has said. "He’s trying to get back in business."
Despite repeated attempts, Ghulam couldn’t be reached for comment.
Debban said he wasn’t sure when the renovation would be completed.
"He hopes to open as soon as he possibly can," he said. "I would guess (the work will take) three to four months."
Debban said he wishes Ghulam his best in getting the store back in operation.
"He’s just a small businessman trying to make a living," he said.