PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Adolph Stahl had decided to close the 57-year-old variety store passed to him from his father. Neighbors say he and his wife were finally going to take it easy.
But the building, which was undergoing renovations, collapsed Monday after a wall shifted. Stahl and a construction worker, Robert Scherer, 39, were killed. Stahl's wife, Faith, was able to escape.
"They were going to retire," the Stahls' daughter, Cecelia Driscoll, said tearfully. Neighbor Marie Brennan added: "They were talking about how great their lives were going to be."
Construction crews had been digging beneath the wall that supported much of the building's weight, Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Edward McLaughlin said.
The contractor, Vaccone Co., had an interior demolition permit but appeared to have exceeded what they were allowed to do and "undermined the bearing wall on one side," McLaughlin said.
Officials with Vaccone Co. did not return a call seeking comment.
Stahl, 64, was about to open Aunt Louisa's Variety Store for business about 9 a.m. when the building collapsed. During the search for victims, rescuers brought in a crane to stabilize the building's roof, and residents in adjacent buildings were evacuated.
Stahl's body was removed from the rubble about four hours after the collapse. Scherer's was found an hour later.
The store, a neighborhood fixture, carried everything from parade costumes to school supplies.
"He was very nice, very accommodating," said Elma Witiw, a 41-year resident of the neighborhood. "You had to be if you were in business for that long."