Kerrisdale businesses consider future after fire

Last week’s massive fire has left a hole in Kerrisdale’s business community.

“The fire is a huge tragedy and a shock for all of us who lost stores,” said Evefay Hua, owner of On The Go Fashion, one of seven stores along West 41st Avenue destroyed by fire.

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The fire broke out at about 8 p.m. June 22 on 41st Avenue between Maple Street and East Boulevard. The flames quickly spread, engulfing seven businesses — Tam’s Custom Tailor, Sienna Fashions, Image Hair Design, On The Go Fashion, MagiCream Ice Cream Lab, Petit C Nail & Lash Salon and Papa John’s Pizza, as well as an apartment above Tam’s Custom Tailor. No one was injured, but the businesses suffered extensive damage and demolition crews were brought in Friday afternoon. Less than 24 hours after the fire started, the buildings were reduced to a pile of rubble.

On The Go Fashion has been a fixture on the strip for more than 30 years. Opened by Diane Peotker in 1983, Hua bought the business in 2009.

She said the store had a loyal following and, since the fire, she has had many messages of support from customers.

“I’ve received messages from clients saying they we hope we’ll be able to reopen again,” she said, adding that she is waiting for more information before making a decision on whether or not the store will reopen.

“I’ve been there for 17 years,” said Marcus Stiller, who owns Fish Café, one of the adjacent businesses. “I know all these people. It’s devastating.”

“It’s difficult for them,” he said of his fellow business owners. “I know what it takes to run a small business… Just to lose it all in 10 or 12 hours.”

Kerrisdale Business Association president Glenn Knowles owns Gem Chocolates, which is just a couple doors down from the businesses lost in the fire.

He said whenever there is a loss of private enterprise, there is an uncertainty whether or not the business will return. Too often, he said, when small businesses close they are replaced with chain stores.

Knowles added that Kerrisdale’s business community is tight knit and there is a certain sense of camaraderie.

“It is one of the last bastions of small businesses in the city,” he said.

Knowles, who was working the night of the fire, had high praise for local emergency responders.

The firefighters did an excellent job in controlling the fire and keeping it from spreading to even more businesses, he said, adding that two stores suffered smoke and water damage, and about half the block was without power until Saturday.

As for the cause, the fire is still under investigation. Last week assistant fire chief Ray Bryant said investigators were focusing on a narrow opening between the two affected buildings. The remains of a charred tree in the opening could be seen from the back alley. He said it’s believed the fire started on the exterior at the back of the building.

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