Smith Street’s beloved Mediterranean grocer Sonsa Market was deliberately set on fire in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Emergency services rushed to the popular strip after reports that three people had smashed the windows of the shop with hammers and set it alight just before 3am.

Victoria Police said in a statement that the offenders fled the scene in a silver SUV. The fire was extinguished by 3.10am, with police discovering jerry cans abandoned nearby.

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A source who spoke to The Age has claimed a man associated with Sonsa was subject to an earlier attack in recent days, when two empty cars were set alight at a Fawkner home around 5.30am on Saturday.

Sonsa Market is one of Collingwood’s most well-known shops, selling a range of Turkish and Mediterranean food and goods since 1983. At mid-morning on Thursday the store was still surrounded by police tape with broken, blackened windows.

“Someone’s broken in and started a very small fire,” a Fire Rescue Victoria spokesperson confirmed to Broadsheet. “The fire wasn’t anything significant, but the police have an issue with the breaking and entering.”

The offenders are still at large, and police are appealing for anyone with information or CCTV/Dashcam footage to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.

Sonsa Market has been contacted for comment

Additional reporting by Audrey Payne