Bluffton pawn shop reopens after November fire

Bluffton's Top Dollar Pawn Shop reopened Feb. 1 after repairing damage caused by a suspected arson in November.

"It's wonderful to be back in business," owner Ray Clark said.

Clark said a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the shop's window Nov. 4, igniting the blaze. The fire was contained, but smoke permeated the shop and caused damage throughout.

"I had to totally gut my building -- everything all the way to the steel studs was ripped out," he said.

Merchandise in the front of the shop was damaged by heat. Everything in the back was cleaned and stored. Clark rented a shipping container to hold some of the larger items and placed it in his parking lot.

The pawn shop fire was the first in a string of suspected arsons within a month at Bluffton-area businesses.

Anthony Terrell Hamilton, 21, and Andre Leon DeCosta, 30, are accused of setting fire Nov. 29 to Dan's Fan City at 22 Plantation Park Drive, then moments later breaking into Ligato's Fine Jewelry at 80 Baylor Drive in the Publix shopping center off U.S. 278, according to 14th Circuit Court Solicitor Duffie Stone.

DeCosta also has been charged with burglary, arson and petit theft for a similar incident Nov. 4, in which Easy-2-Own Furnishings at 21 Simmonsville Road was set on fire and robbed.

Clark said no one has yet been charged with setting fire to his shop, but he said police continue to investigate.

Insurance covered the damage, he said, but not the lost revenue.

"The hard part was being out of business for three months," Clark said. "You don't ever get that back."