NewsHillsborough County


Ruskin family perseveres after fire destroys business

Posted at 4:32 PM, Jan 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-03 16:59:09-05

RUSKIN, Fla. -- A little piece of Ruskin is gone, that’s how the Singletary family feels after their long-time furniture business burned down in December.

Billy R. Singletary bought the property in 1992 to start an appliance and furniture business commonly known in the area as Wild Bill’s.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: One person hurt in 2-alarm fire at a building in Ruskin

For years, the family worked in the building and also started a U-Haul business out of it as well.

The structure, built in the early 1900s, was so old the family did not have insurance on it.

On December 4, 2019, Sheila Singletary says she began seeing smoke which quickly turned to flames.

“Everybody lost a little touch of something,” Sheila said, as her daughters and granddaughters stood by her side.

Sheila tells ABC Action News many of her son-in-laws worked at the business throughout the years and there wasn’t a day that went by that family wasn’t in or visiting at the site.

The fire, Sheila says, may have been set off by rats chewing through electrical wires. The business had issues with the rodents in the past.

Flames tore through the building in less than two hours, the owners say there was a lot of wood and other kinds of kindling to help the fire grow quickly.

In 2015, Billy R. Singletary passed away and since then his wife, Sheila says they didn’t sell many pieces of furniture or appliances so they didn't store those kind of items inside.

What was destroyed in the fire was a lot more important.

“I hate that I had so much of his stuff here,” Sheila tells ABC Action News she kept a lot of her late husband’s belongings in the building like his work boots, suits he adored and family pictures.

About the only thing untouched by the fire was a key dropbox outside, along one of the walls still standing. Sheila says this is a sign of the family’s future.

“We are trying to get the U-haul back up and running. It’s kind of running slow because people don’t know I’m here,” she said.

Without a building, Sheila ensures the public they are there out with the U-Hauls, currently working out of a little pop-up stand until they decide whether or not to build a new structure where Wild Bill’s once stood.

Because the family did not have insurance, they have been cleaning up the property themselves. Sheila believes they may build an open warehouse-type structure which would be less expensive and easier to operate a rental business out of.

When we asked what the public should know about the Singletary family after such a tragedy, she said that their family has a bond and is getting her through.

“Just how loving this family is,” Sheila said.