Fire damages several Edgebrook storefronts
by SEAN KEENEHAN
A commercial building in Edgebrook containing four storefronts in the 5300 block of West Devon Avenue was damaged by a fire at about 8:30 p.m. Sunday, March 19, according to the 16th (Jefferson Park) District police and Chicago Fire Media Affairs.
Officers responded to a call of a fire at the Elephant Thai Cuisine restaurant, 5348 W. Devon Ave., and saw firefighters tending to flames and smoke on the roof and in the attic of the restaurant, according to police. Officers saw that the fire had spread to three adjacent storefronts, including Aqua Salon, 5346 W. Devon Ave., an unoccupied storefront located at 5344 W. Devon Ave., and Edgebrook Stone and Tile Design, 5342 W. Devon Ave., police said.
According to a police report, the fire department Office of Fire Investigations is investigating the cause of the fire, but that an OFI representative initially reported that the fire could have originated in the salon due to a portable halogen light in the attic.
However, fire department spokesman Larry Langford said that the original report from the fire department indicated that the fire might have started in the grease chute of the restaurant and that the fire is still under investigation.
There was a fire at Aqua Salon in 2012 and at that time, Aqua operated temporarily out of Louise Salon in Forest Glen until the business was repaired. Aqua Salon owner Noel Buican posted on Facebook that the salon would not be reopening "anytime soon" and that she would not be able to manage out of a temporary location.
"I have offered to place stylists in nearby salons as I have friendly relationships with the owners. I wish I could keep us all together, but I know the demands on my time and energy will not allow me to do everything. I’m extremely sorry for the disappointment this may cause. Optimistic that the best is yet come," Buican wrote.
Local Goods Chicago owner Laura Clarke Guenther co-founded the organization Everyday Edgebrook with Buican in 2015 and has launched an online Facebook fund-raiser on March 20 with the goal of raising $40,000 that will be used to help the businesses recover. Since March 23, 65 people have donated $3,875 and Everyday Edgebrook will also be accepting donations for the businesses at the "Cabin Fever Festival" beer-tasting event, which will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, in the parking lot behind 5418 and 5422 W. Devon Ave.
Clarke Guenther said that she was concerned about the community and the businesses that have suffered in the fire. "They’re important businesses and I want to make sure that they don’t go away and that they are able to recover easily. To have two businesses damaged by a fire is a really big deal," she said.
Edgebrook Stone and Tile Design owner Oscar Banuelos said that he was planning to expand his business into the neighboring empty storefront at 5344 W. Devon Ave. in April, but that he will now have to wait until the site is restored. He said that his business suffered water damage.
"I was putting my kids into the bathtub on Sunday night and then my phone rings a couple of times at 8:55 p.m. saying the power went out and my buddy who is a police officer called me right away telling me that the building is on fire," Banuelos said. "It happened so fast and when I saw all of the trucks out there I just said, ‘Oh my God,’ and I saw my buddy out there, too. People are shocked, but my landlord was on top of everything and is already fixing the ceiling. My power was turned on right away by the battalion that came in here on Monday, but unfortunately for my neighbors, there’s nothing that they can do but just let everybody else and the insurance take care of it. My neighbors, they’re all good neighbors."