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Berry hopeful

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:31 AM

His East Main Street home is gutted, but Doug Berry is extremely optimistic about the future.

Berry said his insurance company has insisted he start working on the damaged home "right away." Mark Smith of Premier Construction has been encouraging about what can be done with the home built in 1878.

"I'm encouraged that we can do it," Berry said. "I don't want to see this house torn down."

Smith is establishing how much it would cost to fix the residence. Berry hopes the amount will be within the limits of his insurance policy.

The same person built Smith's and Berry's homes in the 1800s. The pair have worked together for many years.

"He's familiar with the odd type of lumber you have to use," Berry said. "He may have patterns for them from that time."

Smith said there are "only a few spots" with major damage. Most of it is cosmetic, Berry said, such as burned wallpaper.

"The house was built well," he said. "It is structurally sound."

The 51-year-old owner of Berry's Restaurant was not home when the fire started late Sunday night.

Flames were coming out of the west side, front porch and back when firefighters arrived at 11:57 p.m. Sunday. The blaze eventually moved into the walls and stairways to involve the second floor.

Berry's neighbor to the west, Gail Leto, called 9-1-1. Firefighters suspect the blaze started in the living room, next to her house.

Leto could feel the heat from her upstairs bedroom, saying the fire "took off" after a living room window broke.

Berry was outside the home Tuesday. He noticed the grass on one side had turned brown "almost over to the house next door," about 30 feet away.

Firefighters consider the house, valued by the county at $229,000, a total loss. The cause, under investigation by the state fire marshal and Norwalk Police Department, remains unknown.

Detective Sgt. Jim Fulton interviewed Berry for several hours Monday. Fulton has said multiple times "there is nothing new" in the ongoing investigation.

"There are some issues with this particular fire," Berry said, adding it wasn't appropriate to elaborate.

Online readers have expressed how broken hearted they are at Berry losing a beautiful home they consider one of their favorites in Norwalk. The readers were grateful nobody was injured during the fire.

Berry bought the house in Thanksgiving 1990 for $83,500 from Sharon and Dan Rood.

"I know it sounds like a steal," Berry said, but the house soon "ate up" $75,000 within a year. "They had spent many hours working on that house ... but it needed help.

"People called it The Money Pit and it was," Berry added.

In order to buy 60 storm windows that were authentic to the home, Berry would buy three at a time. He made payments on those and then save money to buy more.

Rich Mannino, Berry's neighbor on the east side for the last 13 years, has said Berry was meticulous at working on his house. Mannino called it "his pride and joy."

Since 1990, Berry bought vinyl gutters, a rubber roof, landscaping and had a chimney and various brick work on two sides repainted.

"The idea was to save the originality of the house," he explained.

Berry has been overwhelmed by how many people have reached out to him this week, wondering if he's OK or if needs anything. He has been living with his parents, but is looking for temporary housing.

"In a larger city, you might not get that. In Norwalk, everyone expresses their concern," Berry said. "That's what I like about living in a small town."

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