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Fire at beloved Gastonia ice cream shop intentionally set, investigators say

Tony's Ice Cream Shop, a staple on East Franklin Boulevard in Gastonia, was intentionally set on fire Thursday, officials said.

GASTONIA, N.C. — The reward to find the suspect who started a fire at Tony's Ice Cream in Gastonia last week has been raised to $11,000, police said. 

The Gastonia Fire Department was called to a fire at the popular ice cream shop on East Franklin Boulevard just after 5:45 a.m. on Aug. 4. Fire officials said the fire wasn't evident from the outside, and firefighters only discovered the damage after going inside the building. The fire marshal's office ruled that the fire was intentionally set. 

"That is when we contacted the Gastonia Police Department," Fire Marshal Chris Stowe said. "And that is an investigation that is in conjunction. They brought their police ID team out and detective to work with myself and the fire department." 

Stowe said there was one worker inside at the time of the fire, and it was that employee who called 911.

Investigators said the business sustained minimal smoke and heat damage. Firefighters finished putting it out in 10 minutes, Stowe said. He also told WCNC Charlotte that staff was able to open to customers about 20 minutes after firefighters left. 

Officials with the Gastonia Fire Department and the Gastonia Police Department are investigating at this time. As of Thursday, Aug. 11, the reward for any information that leads to an arrest is $11,000. An anonymous donor contributed $10,000 to the fund that leads to finding the suspect. 

Gastonia police shared surveillance video from the fire, showing who they believe is the suspect.

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Any person with information about this incident or any other is asked to call Gaston County Crime Stoppers at 704-861-8000. 

The manager declined to make any comment to WCNC Charlotte. He only said that it's business as usual. Crews were seen working on replacing some broken glass Thursday around noon.  

Tony's has been serving hand-dipped ice cream in Gastonia for over 100 years. 

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