Two generations of the Reeves family were in court to see Gordon Thompson admit torching their furniture store.
The historic building had been in the family for five generations before Thompson set a sofa alight inside the shop which spread, leaving the landmark just charred timbers and rubble.
Speaking outside the Old Bailey today after Thompson had dramatically changed his plea and admitted arson, Maurice Reeves praised the work of the police.
He said: “It is amazing he has changed his plea but since you saw the evidence of someone lighting a sofa in the shop he has not got any alternative.
“The CCTV was unbelievable.”
Mr Reeves said the trial had taken its toll on the family.
He added: “It has been horrible and terrible – I feel shaky and don’t really want to be here but I have to be here.
“It has been distressing for all the family because the shop has been there for so long.”
But he vowed that the family business was determined to continue to thrive.
He said: “We didn’t go then and we won’t go now. We will always be here.
“This man is just an example of other people out there with no respect for property or lives.
“I was in World War Two and I don’t want that sort of thing in peace time.”
His son Trevor Reeves said the trial had brought back the memories of the ordeal of August 8, when rioters swept across Croydon causing millions of pounds in damage.
He said: “I am staggered that he changed his plea. We were prepared for having to go through a long trial.
“But the prosecution evidence and that of the police was so strong that they decided he did not have an anywhere to go.
“Nothing can bring closure to it when you see the demolished site.
“It has been a very traumatic experience that the family have been through.
“Having to go back through it all is when it gets relived. It has been quiet for a while but this brings it all back again.
He said the family were now looking ahead with plans for a new store on the old site.
The family’s words were echoed by Superintendent Simon Messinger, Croydon Borough, who gave a brief statement outside court.
He said: "People all across the country were outraged by the shocking images of local businesses and homes being destroyed by mindless criminals on the 8 August 2011.
“The fire at Reeves Corner provided some of the most iconic images but we must also remember that other businesses and homes were destroyed and local people were lucky to escape without serious harm.
“So far 416 people have been arrested in Croydon for their involvement in the disorder with 273 people charged. My officers will continue to trawl through CCTV images and identify all those who were involved.
“I would like to thank the public for continuing to assist us with this investigation, without their help positive identifications of many of the images would not have been made."
Croydon’s London Assembly member, Steve O’Connell, welcomed the guilty plea of Thompson.
Mr O’Connell said: “I am glad for the Reeves family, their business and Croydon as a whole that Gordon Thompson has finally admitted his guilt for the wanton destruction he caused when his actions razed over 140 years of an enterprising family’s hard work and heritage.
“I congratulate the police for their excellent work in bringing this man to justice.
“Crime doesn’t pay. There never was and never will be any excuse for the appalling violence we saw on our streets last August.
"I hope Thompson now feels the full force of the law.”