Community buys Christmas trees from Willey Farms month after fire

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Willey family determined to rebuild popular Willey Farms. Brian Taff reports during Action News at 6 a.m. on December 9, 2018.

A fire in the early morning hours of November 5 was the Willey family's worst nightmare.

Their family-owned business, Willey Farms along Route 13 in Townsend, burned to the ground as they looked on, helpless to save it.
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Massive fire destroys farmers market in Townsend, Delaware. Vernon Odom reports during Action News at 4:30pm on November 5, 2018.


A little more than a month later, on Black Friday, the Willey family was back on their feet.

Nowhere near back to normal, the family rallied to sell Christmas trees, wreaths and greenery in the parking lot, and loyal customers came.

"It's important for us, but I think it's important for the community, too. We need to get hugs. We need to give hugs and show we're here," said Allison Willey Seewald. "We have a little temporary office in the back, in like a little trailer, and customers are stopping in. They're bringing cookies and they're bringing soup and they're bringing hugs, flowers."

Customers happily gave hugs and one even delivered hand-knitted hats for the family.

Over the years, Willey Farms grew from a farm stand founded by Donald and Irene Willey in 1975, to a landmark business of over 100,000 square feet, known for fresh fruits and vegetables, a bakery, deli and butcher shop, a large gift shop, a nursery, and even a television show.

Even in the midst of the fire, family members could talk about how much this place means to the community.

"Willey Farms has always been entwined with the community. That's something we've always prided ourselves in, a customer walks in and they're immediately family," said Richard Seewald.
That community family is now supporting the Willey Family and their employees. There's a fund to help employees at Dover Federal Credit Union and local businesses have offered jobs to the staff.

As for the future?

"There's lots of plans every day. They're changing depending on what the insurance company says, and even more importantly, what the state says," Gretchen Willey-Gill said.

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