A meat processing business that was a go-to spot for hunters in western Horry County was destroyed by fire early Sunday morning.
The fire engulfed the Aynor Conway Meat Market off U.S. 501 about 3 a.m., leaving nothing but a burnt-out building with charred meat coolers.
The fire was so large crews had to close a westbound lane of U.S. 501 while they battled the blaze.
It was engulfed in flames, said Dale Edwards, a nearby resident who jumped in his truck and drove to the fire after hearing the sirens and seeing smoke from his house. There was no saving it, for sure. It was burning bad.
The meat processing business has been in this spot at 4980 U.S. 501 near S.C. 22 for as long as many residents remember, but came under the ownership of Kenneth Barnhill and Tommy Barnhill, brothers who were born and raised in the Aynor-Conway area, in March 2010, according to the business website.
Word of the fire quickly spread through this tight-knit Horry County community Sunday morning, with many of the longtime customers stopping by to see the damage.
Its heartbreaking. This is sad. This is really devastating, said Melissa Brown, who had recently dropped off the first deer her son shot for processing. Everything is gone. Even the doors to the cooler are melted off.
Brown and other customers said this was their go-to place to have deer processed, but they also bought steaks, chicken, sausage and other meat here, as well as picked up sweet potatoes and other grocery items. Shelves of goods and a cooler with egg cartons still sat in the burned-out shell of the building Sunday morning, the neon open sign flat on the pavement.
Its a loss, customer Dawn Page said. Now Ive got to go all the way to Conway to get my meat.
The timing of the fire just after the start of deer season likely is an extra blow to the owners, who were probably getting ready for a rush in business, said customer Ryan Collins said, who stopped by the business Sunday morning after hearing about the fire.
This was going to be his time to make his money, Page said.
The owners could not be reached Sunday.
Fire crews sorted through the building Sunday morning, but a cause of the fire hasnt yet been released. Horry County Fire Rescue battled the blaze with assistance from Conway Fire Rescue.