L IMA — When Howard Pangle bought a little grocery store in 1924, he likely did not imagine it would become a regional chain. The groceries grew into the Pangles brand, a retail food store that gained national attention for its forward-thinking ideas.But bad luck came in 1963.A newspaper story from Feb. 12, 1963, brought details of a terrible fire at the main location at South Central Avenue.“‘It looks just like a big steel furnace,' Ray Pangle, general manager of the chain of Pangles Markets, said of the flaming holocaust which was the family's first supermarket. Red-faced from standing in the 16-degree cold, Pangle, dressed in a big heavy Navy overcoat and wearing a dress hat, kept walking around in the parking lot,” the story reported.The $600,000 blaze turned into a spectator event. There were some 6,000 people on scene.“Sides of the former yellow and red painted steel building were blackened but were glowing orange from the heat. It looked like a blazing inferno. Mangled parts of the building kept crashing in. First the roof caved in, then the outside wall along Central Avenue. The large plate glass display windows popped, spewing hot glass high into the sky. Pangle, theorizing that the fire started from electrical wiring, said there weren't any compressors in the area where the blaze began.”The newspaperman caught up with store co-manager Charles Stone. Stone said he started his day at 7 a.m. and at 9:30 a.m. smelled smoke. “I was walking through the back section of the store,” Stone said. “I smelled smoke and spotted it coming from the second floor office. I yelled for help, called the fire department and ran there with a fire extinguisher. We thought we could get the flames out. Flames were shooting out of the wall in a corner … we went after them but they jumped to the ceiling. The fire swept across the second floor ceiling like wildfire … (We) jumped to the first floor and got out fast.”The 12 employees and 10 customers in the building at the time found exits without panic. The fire burned its way to the store's incinerator — which was fed by gas line. At that point, the gas line fed the flames.“The general alarm blaze was visible in nearly all areas of the city, and all available Lima firefighters were called in to duty,” the story reported, adding Bath Township also helped. “Flames burst through the roof and billowed 100 feet into the air as firemen left the roof and manned aerial hoses. The new flames roared up just as West Ohio Gas Co. workers frantically tried to cut into the gas line at the cut-off valve only inches from the store.”The huge fire burned the telephone and electric poles and took out those services in a nine-block area of the store. The bowling alley — 20th Century Lanes — west of the store was spared because the wind was pushing the fire and smoke south.Another story added the 40 firefighters who responded had some trouble getting water out of the hydrants, as pressure was low. “While dark smoke billowed hundreds of feet into the sky for all of Lima to see, cans of goods continued to explode inside the store, sounding like hundreds of muted popguns,” the story continued. There was a “weird aroma” of burning food. Puddles of water in the parking lot started to steam as the heat was transferred, and officials worked hard to keep onlookers from getting too close.Police Chief Donald F. Miller was hit with a burning ember, which singed his hat.“It happens every time I get a new hat,” he said, adding humor to an otherwise humorless day.Ray Pangle did not let the fire deter him, however. He vowed to rebuild, and he did — quickly. He had a new Master Market at Central Avenue (across the street from the burned location) which opened 64 days after the fire.Fire struck again just two years later, this time at the Northland store. A story from Feb. 1, 1965, explained it was discovered by eight employees who were stocking at 3:15 a.m. It was tracked to a short in a meat cooler.“Employees attempted to put out the fire with extinguishers but fumes, apparently from burning insulation on wiring, forced them from the storeroom,” the 1965 story reported. The phone line was apparently intermittent, with workers finally reaching Bath Township firefighters at 3:30 a.m.“Bath Fire Chief Gaylord Faze said his volunteers were inside the store battling the fire during its early stages but ‘we were forced out when things started exploding,'” the story reported.Gas in the refrigeration equipment caught, the story reported, and Shawnee, Elida and Cairo fire departments assisted. (Lima did not because that township didn't have a fire protection agreement with the city at that time.)“Many firemen, after struggling with the stubborn inferno for two or three hours, found their gloves frozen to their hands,” the story reported.The building was owned by William Cafaro and Associates of Youngstown, and Pangles worked with that business to rebuild. The Northland store reopened May 5.And the chain wasn't yet finished with fire. The Pangles store on Latham Avenue burned in December 1965. Stockers saw the fire first in produce and tried to call, but the phone line was dead.“Fire was prevented from spreading to the nearby Lima Lumber Co. at Latham and Jameson, although sparks popped and fell for hours upon the lumberyard,” a Dec. 13, 1965, story reported.But Pangles continued on, spreading to the American Mall and as far away as Troy. Ray Pangle, who had been running the day-to-day business and was the factor behind the chain's growth, died in a plane crash in 1967. In the early 1970s, the company was sold to Scot Lad Food. Founder Howard Pangle died in 1973 of a heart attack at home in Wapakoneta. In 1984, the Lima stores opened as Rays Supermarkets, a local brand under the Chief banner, which continues today.