When firefighters arrived at the building at 3405 172nd Street Northeast flames had already engulfed the structure.
"Just the whole end of the building, big flames, kind of dancing down the roof a bit," said Deric Dobesh, the owner of a nearby music store.
Crews were concerned about ammunition cooking off inside a burning pawn shop, so they did not go inside and instead poured water on the blaze from outside the building.
"The type of ammunition that was in the we weren't concerned about it being a projectile like it was coming out of a weapon, but it was exploding," said Arlington fire chief Jim Rankin.
Investigators believe the fire started in the pawn shop and spread to a martial arts studio, bookstore and two restaurants.
Later in the morning, customers from the pawn shop arrived to see if any items they had pawned could be saved.
"We've got a guitar in there, we've got a weed eater," said Marla Geddis. "Just a variety of things."
Even worse, pawn shop employees say pawned items are not covered by insurance.
"On the application we fill out, it says 'not responsible for fire' or stuff like that," said Ron Jones, a pawn shop employee. "I want to protect them, see what we can find, see what we can save some of it."
Jones says the store was jammed with stuff because of our bad economy.
"People have their antiques, their mom and dad's stuff in there," he said. "They're going to lose a lot of saddles in there... (and) there is nothing we can do about it."
Geddis says she's lost about $400 worth of stuff, but she's not worried about herself.
"There's probably more people out there that have lost more, and that's what's sad," she said. "And what's sad is that they have lost their life, their business, so it's not the people who have pawned, it's the owners too."
Fire investigators just starting their job of finding out what started the fire. Before they could do that, they had to bring in the original contractor who built this shopping center make sure it was safe to go inside.
No one was injured.