Fire marshal’s report: West 231st Street blaze due to electrical issue

Fire started in kitchen, 8 feet above deli’s floor level


Merchants of the five West 231st Street businesses destroyed in a fire last December are left devastated as demolition has further erased what once stood.

Kristen Hackett, the property manager through Robert E. Hill Inc., said she received the fire marshal’s report last week that determined the blaze started in the kitchen of Cold Cut Bunny Deli, which was located on the corner of Kingsbridge’s Godwin Terrace.

“We know that it started eight feet above floor level, and it was electrical,” Hackett said. “It spread to the cockloft of that building, and quickly jumped to the nail salon, the seafood market, the meat market, and finally the dry cleaners. Fire was extinguished after it reached the dry cleaners.”

Because of how unstable the remaining structure is, those were the only details the fire marshal provided, she said. While the report offers pieces of closure, it offers little alleviation to the pain merchants likely have gone through in the aftermath. They’ve lost a source of steady income, customers, and much of what was inside when the fire occurred.

The five businesses destroyed were the deli, New Riverdale Nail & Hair Center, New Sea Win Seafood Market; El Novillo Meat Market, and 231st Street Cleaners. Several of the businesses affected either could not be reached for comment or would not comment. Other neighboring businesses experienced water damage.

The fire also took remnants of the street’s rich history. The Bunny Deli was home for decades to Ehring’s Tavern, a popular German food restaurant once described as the best place for a drink and steak. The tavern was lined with authentic German steins, while the restaurant portion was apparently considered a perfect spot to take someone you loved.

Thomas O’Hanlon reflected on eating there in a first-hand account that appears on Page A5 of today’s paper. His father worked there as a part-time waiter, and often brought home a dish of sauerbraten, which O’Hanlon described as “the best (sauerbraten) I ever had.” It was a place where people went to get away from the hot temperatures outside, and enjoy cold refreshments.

Ehring’s closed in 2000, and Edward Ehring Sr. — who took over the business from his father — died in 2005.

“The recent fire on 231st wasn’t supposed to happen, either,” O’Hanlon said. “But it did. Another golden era abruptly ended. I’m not familiar with the businesses that occupy the building there presently, but I can’t imagine the devastation and turmoil the entrepreneurs feel. Saddened for the new memories the neighborhood kids won’t be making.”

The strip also was home to Loeser’s Kosher Deli, which operated in the space where the meat market had moved in, between 1960, and when gas line issues forced it to close in late 2019. The corner of West 231st and Godwin is known ceremonially as Loeser’s Deli Place.

fire, marshal, Bunny Deli, Ehring's Tavern, Kristen Hackett, Godwin Terrace, New Riverdale Nail & Hair Center, New Sea Win Seafood Market, El Novillo Meat Market, 231st Street Cleaners