Five Kingsbridge businesses trying to pick up pieces

Remaining shops are left without power, electricity and gas


A handful of Kingsbridge merchants are forced to start anew this holiday season, after a fire broke out in the early morning of Dec. 13, engulfing a handful of businesses and leaving those nearby with flooded basements.

The area between Godwin Terrace and Broadway, on West 231st Street, was the site of 15 businesses before the blaze, whose cause has not yet been determined.

The five devastated storefronts are Cold Cut City Bunny Deli, New Riverdale Nail & Hair Center, New Sea Win Seafood Market, El Novillo Meat Market, and 231st Street Cleaners. The remaining businesses are Columbia Florist, Jewelry Box, Alltown Car Limo, S.Y. Beauty Supply II, Kingsbridge Pharmacy, Beautiful Brows Threading Salon & Spa, Delicious Delight, Joe’s Brick Oven Pizza, Punto de Sabor Express, Broadway Eye Care, and H&R Block.

Randy Lopez has been the manager of Alltown Car Limo for 10 years. Although his storefront was undamaged by the fire, at the time Lopez said that the business would be unable to operate until the street was cleared. He added that he was heavily dependent on medical transportation, and that on a typical day, Alltown has about 500 Medicaid passengers.

“Now we have to explain to passengers why we haven’t picked them up,” Lopez said. He explained that people call from the hospital to be picked up, but now his company cannot help them.

Joe Kandic has owned Joe’s Brick Oven Pizza for the past two years. “It’s a family business,” he said. “My sons, my wife, my daughter, we all work here.”

Kandic’s two sons, Bobby and Spencer, were standing with him on the street, observing the aftermath of the fire. His business was unaffected, he said, except for roughly 4 feet of water in his basement. But his insurance adjusters had already come and told him they would have someone pump out the water. His larger concern was when he would be able to open his business again.

When Kandic saw employees from the neighboring shop, S.Y. Beauty Supply II, he asked them if they had checked their basement for flooding like his. A few minutes later, Kim Sosa, the manager of the shop, was on the phone with the owner, informing him that they, too, had a flooded basement.

A number of the businesses had similar flooding, including Columbia Florist, which was just missed by the flames. Sisters Kathy Kapsis and Connie Dennis inherited their parents’ storefront, which has been in business for over 70 years. An employee, Shana Millan, said that while the fire left the physical structure untouched, it had affected them in other ways.

“The whole thing basically needs to be rebuilt,” Millan said. “Everything smells like smoke.” She said she had no idea when the shop could reopen.

Millan, who has been working at the florist for about a year, said the business had taken a financial hit, but she added that customers were calling to check in and make sure everyone was OK.

As of Monday night, the strip of businesses along West 231st Street had no water, electricity, or gas, and there was no timeline for the resumption of operations.

A representative from Consolidated Edison commented, “the electric was turned off as per request of FDNY during a fire on Dec. 13. It is up to the building management team to open a case to get the building re-energized. ConEdison needs the electrician to open a case to move forward, and that has not happened yet.”   

Katherine Broihier, executive director of the Kingsbridge Business Improvement District, said that although the damaged businesses are within the business improvement district, there is not much she can do. She said that the buildings are too far gone, and the only help she can offer owners is to make them aware of vacant storefronts they could move to.

“I’ve been here 22 years now,” Broihier said. “I mean, we had a flood once, but this fire was something else.”

Before the fire, she said, she kept in touch with the businesses, as she does with all the businesses in the district. The goal of the BID is to keep Kingsbridge’s commercial district alive and vibrant. The organization helps maintain the outside of the storefronts and sidewalks, and offers assistance to stores as they need it.

Since the fire, Broihier has been sending along whatever comes across her desk, whether it is information on storefront vacancies or city-funded grants that are available to business owners. She explained that the businesses that were engulfed by flames are not salvageable, and said she presumed the storefronts would remain vacant for some time, forcing the business owners to move if they plan to continue operating.

The owners and employees of the storefronts that didn’t burn are anxiously awaiting their chance to reopen. “We’re hoping to open soon,” Millan said. “We want to make a big comeback in Riverdale. A lot of our customers are like family, and we miss seeing them, so we’re hoping to rebuild soon.”