Historic Wilmot Coles store gutted by fire

OWNERS of the historic Wilmot Country Store were forced to flee their home this morning to avoid a fire that destroyed the property.

Firefighters were alerted about 5am this morning and arrived to see the occupants of a home adjoining the store unharmed, but the building fully ablaze.

The fire destroyed both the 115-year-old general store and home.

Police have put the damage bill at between $550,000 and $600,000.

The store was operated by George Coles, whose son GJ Coles founded the company that became the Coles-Myer retail chain, from 1910 to 1921. It's regarded as first permanent Coles store.

It was due to have new owners from next month. 

Pauline and Andrew Towning, who operated the store for more than four years, told Fairfax Media yesterday they had sold the business to an American couple from Hobart and were preparing to retire to Queensland.

Tasmania Police detective acting Sergeant Felicity Boyd said the cause of the fire was undetermined.

Police and fire investigators are examining the scene.

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