Insurance woes keep Earp's Seafood closed

October 16, 2011 

— The April tornadoes crushed the fish shop Mary and Herbert Earp built on South Saunders Street nearly a half-century ago.

But it's been insurance adjusters and modern building codes that have kept Earp's Seafood shuttered ever since, the owners say.

Nancy Salmon, the Earps' daughter, is crossing her fingers that the business will reopen in time for the holiday rush. Without that infusion of customers before Christmas, Salmon said the tornado will have brought a financial setback that even an established business will struggle to survive.

"We could have been back in business months ago," said Salmon, whose husband David now runs the store. "I'm so mad at the insurance company I could spit nails."

This month, the Salmons conceded to insurance adjusters' requirements to salvage three original walls and rebuild around them, sparing a complete demolition. Though builders advised them to tear it down completely and start fresh, Salmon is secretly relieved the new store will be built on the old.

"My parents build that with $50..." she said. "Even them three walls are part of my momma and daddy."

A spokesman for Travelers insurance declined to comment on Salmon's complaints.

Last weekend, as crews took apart the roof and back wall of the building, Nancy Salmon brought her mother Mary Earp,86, to see it. Salmon's father died in 1981.

Salmon shook her head and cried; Mary Earp just nodded and assured her daughter they would survive this, too.

Builders have submitted rebuilding plans to the city and await a permit. Salmon said new codes will require the business to be a bit fancier, adding handicapped accessible bathrooms and grease traps in the kitchen. Those changes seem useless to Salmon because the shop does not have a public restroom and they do not cook at the market.

Salmon tells herself it is not worth getting frustrated. She has learned that some things - tornadoes and insurance companies and city ordinances - are just too big to fight.

Staff writer Mandy Locke

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