Community rallies around Tony the Peanut Man

Anthony Wright, also known as Tony the Peanut Man, stands in the middle of his burned out peanut kitchen in the backyard of his house in West Ashley on Tuesday.

The community is chipping in to make sure Tony the Peanut Man doesn’t stay in his shell too long after a blaze destroyed his cooking equipment early Tuesday.

Tony, also known as Anthony Wright, has been a local fixture for years, hawking his trademark goobers at RiverDogs games and other community events. But his operation suffered a serious setback when fire claimed about $10,000 worth of gear while he was cooking a batch of the tasty legumes in the yard of his West Ashley home.

The RiverDogs plan to donate to Wright a portion of the club’s peanut sales for a four-game homestand that begins tonight against the West Virginia Power. The club will also have a donation station for Wright throughout the homestand.

“We feel for Tony,” RiverDogs General Manager Dave Echols said. “He’s been a (Joe) Riley Park staple for so long that we felt that we had to do something for him. We’re certain that many of his customers will come to his need during this delicate time.”

Piggly Wiggly also plans to help by donating 900 pounds of peanuts to Wright — the exact amount he lost in the blaze. The donation is worth about $800, said Christopher Ibsen, the supermarket chain’s director of corporate affairs.

“Tony is a local institution who is loved by many,” he said, “And as a local company, when we see one of our friends in need, we see an opportunity to help out.”

In addition, a fund to help Wright has been set up at First Federal bank. Donations to the Tony the Peanut Man fund can be made at any First Federal branch.

Wright said he is overwhelmed by the show of community support. He dealt with the blaze rather stoically, saying he had little choice but to accept his loss and try to overcome it. He said he never expected so many people to come forward wanting to help a humble peanut vendor.

In addition to the above-mentioned help, city of Charleston workers him gave a hand cleaning up the charred debris from the fire and a local lumber company offered to build him a new shelter for his cooking operation, Wright said.

“This is all so unexpected, I can’t help but be touched,” he said. “ I appreciate all of it. I am a blessed man.”

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.