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Left uncertain by blaze, York City store owners remain positive

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Halman Smith II, who owns Comfort Zone Mattress with his wife Montika, talks about his business in a common area in the fire-damaged Yorktown Mall Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. Fire damaged several businesses there after a fire occurred early Friday, Aug. 23. Bill Kalina photo

Some of the store owners affected by a three-alarm fire last week don't know what will come next. But they are confident it won't be giving up.

Nine stores at the Yorktown Mall sustained an estimated $5 million in damage  Friday morning when a fire started at Panaderia Bakery. While three stores only had smoke damage, the roof over the remaining stores sustained structural damage, which indicates a lengthy recovery process.

Some business owners were standing outside their stores on Monday inspecting damage and talking with co-workers and family. All of them emphasized that although unsure of their destiny, the businesses won't die.

"I'm waiting for all of these inspectors, so we don't have anything for sure at this point," said Jose Alicea, the brother-in-law of Panaderia's owner. "We're going step by step."

The fire, which was caused by oily rags at the bakery, hit a day before the one-month mark after the bakery's opening. Alicea emphasized the business will be back in action, whether it's at the same location or a different spot.

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Family Dollar and Hair Depot will need to be professionally cleaned because of smoke damage, said York City Fire Chief Chad Deardorff. But the businesses with roof damage, such as the bakery, will rely on their insurance and will likely face a "significant time frame" for recovery.

Comfort Zone Mattress co-owner Montika Smith, right, conducts business with customers, Alexis Perez and sisters Mayra, left, and Celeste Rivera, all of York City, outside the business at the fire-damaged Yorktown Mall Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. Montika and her husband Halman own the furniture store where their inventory suffered water and smoke damage. "Just because we had a fire, doesn't mean our business stops," Halman said. Fire damaged several businesses at the city mall after a fire occurred early Friday, Aug. 23. An earlier shipment to the store, left, had to be kept outside the building. Bill Kalina photo

Halman Smith II, who co-owns Comfort Zone Mattress with his wife, Montika, was among the store owners outside the fire scene on Monday. The business had roof damage.

The couple stood in front of packaged furniture that has continued to come in for customers who had placed orders, despite the fact all of the furniture that was in the store was ruined. For now, the Smiths will continue to run their business online, they said.

Halman Smith II, who owns Comfort Zone Mattress with his wife Montika, removes items from the store in the fire-damaged Yorktown Mall Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. Fire damaged several businesses there after a fire occurred early Friday, Aug. 23. Bill Kalina photo

"Just because we had a fire doesn't mean our business stops," Halman Smith II said. "Glory to God. We just know that there's going to be something better. It's having a relationship with Christ and putting our faith in him and whatever happens."

Montika Smith said their customers are partly what drives the couple to succeed and continue to provide services for the community.

"We have trust in them," she said. "They still recommend their families to us, and we've made our business and grown it from customer recommendations. That's how we built this business. People trust us."

A store manager at Family Dollar declined to provide her name for the story. The situation is being handled by the corporation, and the employees were not yet in the loop regarding a time frame for reopening, she said.

CTown Supermarket, which was hit with an estimated $100,000 to $130,000 in damage between inventory and sales, on Saturday became the only store to reopen at the mall, thanks to plenty of elbow grease. 

While the largest full-service grocery store in the city was closed, Giant Food Store on Saturday provided free produce to city residents.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD. 

Montika Smith, left, hugs childhood friend Theresa Mix of York City, while Montika's husband Halman Smith II, right, talks with friend Denise Tyler while the Smiths conducted business at their business, Comfort Zone Mattress, at the fire-damaged Yorktown Mall Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. Fire damaged several businesses there after a fire occurred early Friday, Aug. 23. Bill Kalina photo