MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A major fire in the Minnesota Iron Range city of Babbitt destroyed the town’s only grocery store and drug store. A half dozen other businesses were damaged leaving the community of 2,500 scrambling for groceries and services.

“To the residents this means they’re going to have to go a distance to get many of the services that we provided locally,” said former mayor Don Negley.

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NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Bruce Hagevik Reports

The fire was reported around 2 a.m. Saturday morning and smoke was pouring from the downtown building when firefighters arrived. Seventy firefighters from nine area departments responded.

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Zup’s grocery store was one of the biggest employers in town.

“All the individuals that worked at the store live in the community,” said Negley. “They were probably the largest employer of our under 18 population in the community — so it’s definitely a huge impact to us.”

The nearest grocery store is 20 minutes away at Ely, which is a problem for those who don’t drive. There’s talk of setting up a mobile grocery store and bus service to Ely.

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The cause of the fire is under investigation.