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Hilltop remains open even without power

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Delivery brings power lines down but owners expect it restored today

By Lisa King

A delivery truck pulled a utility pole down on top of Hilltop Garden Center Monday morning, smashing the back of the building and knocking out power to several homes in the area.

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But the owners, Gerald and Sandy Stucker, didn’t let a little thing like a smashed building and no electricity slow them down.

Not much, that is.

“We have stayed open, but we can’t sell everything we usually do,” said Gerald Stucker as he waited on customers Tuesday afternoon. “We don’t have any perishables, but we have been doing what we can to help everybody that comes in.”

Hunting through baskets of onion sets inside the darkened store Tuesday afternoon – the only light coming in through a few windows – John Holtzworth and John Holtzworth Jr. of Shelbyville, were glad the Stuckers made the decision to stay open.

“We come here all the time; we bought some the other day, but we’re back for more,” the elder Holtzworth said.

After waiting on the Holtzworths, Gerald Stucker walked through the darkened store, glancing at the deli and kitchen area, which was shut down, and went out the back door to gesture at the debris outside.

“That pole right there, it’s a new one,” he said, pointing to a utility pole located on Benson Pike.

The garden center sits on a hill at 305 Frankfort Road, at the corner of U.S. 60 and KY 53, and the back of the store, which has been mostly repaired, is not visible or accessible from the road.

Because of that the ruckus really alarmed Sandy Stucker when the incident happened Monday.

“We didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “We couldn’t imagine what was happening because there’s no way anybody could have run into the building back there.”

Shelby County Sheriff’s deputy Fred Rothenburger said the driver of the semi-truck, Billy Boggs of Breathitt County, had left the store Monday morning by way of the back entrance that leads down onto Benson Pike when the mishap occurred at 8:30.

“He came in off Frankfort Road and when he was leaving, he goes down the hill toward Old Benson, and the power lines are sagging from the ice storm – it was his first delivery there this year – and the top of the truck caught the power lines,” he said. “No one was injured, but it did cause quite a bit of damage to the business; it ripped that entire corner of the building off where the breaker boxes were located.”

Sandy Stucker said the driver is a regular supplier of many years.

“For ten years, he’s been coming here three times a week [during the produce season], and I know he feels just terrible,” she said. “We’re just glad nobody was hurt; if somebody had been out there, they could have been killed.”

Liz Prather, spokesperson for Kentucky Utilities, said power was restored to the dozen or so homes in the area that same day.

“The truck did pull down the pole, but we had power restored to twelve customers within several hours,” she said.

Gerald Stucker said he expects the store to have electricity back on by today, in time for Wednesday’s hot plate lunch special.