Fire trucks and a crowd of around 30 people filled Broad Street Monday night as flames tore through Parkside Deli/Café and Catering. The fire, which the Hamilton Police and Hamilton Fire Department attribute to an electrical malfunction, occurred sometime before 10:00 p.m. The fire department received a call at 10:03 p.m. and arrived at the scene within five minutes. The fire fighters contained it within 30 minutes, and nobody was harmed.
The police department found no connection between the fire and negligence due to the start location of the fire. Carolyn Gherardi, co-owner of Parkside with her husband Craig DiBattista, believes the fire began at the back end of the store near the employee bathroom, away from the stoves, ovens and oils.
By 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Parkside appeared as a deserted store with wood boards nailed to the windows. However, Gherardi took a last look at the scene around 4:00 a.m. on Tuesday with her husband and members of the police department. Gherardi explained the disaster.
“They [the Hamilton Police Department] allowed Craig, the cooks and me to walk through the store at 4:00 a.m. to observe the damage,” Gherardi said. “The front of the store suffered moderate damage of smoke and water, but no fire damage. The back of Parkside, where guests don’t see, was completely burned.”
Gherardi said her night was normal before the fire occurred. Parkside closed at 7:30 p.m. as usual that Tuesday with everyone out of the deli by 8:00 p.m. DiBattista and friends enjoyed a game of bowling until they received a call from a friend at 10:00 p.m. He arrived at the scene at 10:25, Gherardi came at 10:40. By the time she arrived, she saw no fire, only smoke. The buildings had been evacuated, and the fire fighters were being accounted for.
“It was under control and stabilized at this point,” she said.
Senior Sagiv Edelman, who lives in one of the apartments above Parkside, also explained his experience.
“I was returning from Wayne’s Market with a case of adult beverages to share with my friends,” Edelman said. “I walked by the parking lot [to the back of Parkside] and saw E.J. Atamian out on the balcony/fire escape looking down at Parkside noticing billowing smoke coming from below.” Edelman and Atamian proceeded to call 911 after seeing bright light through the Parkside curtains.
“The flames started coming out of the back door,” Edelman added. “There was a full blown fire at this point. I thought the apartment above would be destroyed by the flames, but it only had smoke damage. After the fact, they took axes and hammers to release the smoke trapped in the walls so our apartment could breathe.”
Many wonder about the logistics of the aftermath: where will the displaced students live and how will Parkside deal with student meal plans? The school reacted swiftly. On Wednesday, University Chaplain Mark Shiner and Center for Outreach and Volunteer Education (COVE) Director Ingrid Hale began efforts to help the students who resided in the Parkside apartments and the owners of Parkside.
Colgate University has provided temporary accommodations for the affected students at the Colgate Inn. They will soon be provided with housing in the Colgate apartments.
Edelman chose to stay at the Sigma Chi house. He explained the terrible smoke damage that made living at the Parkside apartment unbearable, but also noted the fire’s minimal effect on his personal items.
“My stuff is fine. I don’t really own nice things,” he said. “My clothes smell like smoke, but my laptop is working okay.” He and others have not discussed details about the fire with their landlords.
“We have no idea yet,” Edelman said. “We haven’t talked about the deposit and rent. Someone said it will be ready in 45 days, and worst case scenario is that we won’t move back in until next semester.”
In terms of the future, Gherardi and DiBattista look optimistic.
“We are going to move into the old Pizza Place temporarily,” she said. The Pizza Place storefront, which recently closed, is four doors down from Parkside. “We will need all new equipment, but we may be able to use some table and chairs provided they are in stable condition. Our stretch goal is to open within three weeks.”
Parkside will cut the menu short, focusing on their specialties. They will slowly add on more items as they continue to rebuild the store.
Luckily, Gherardi recovered the meal plan tracking system, which links to the cash register. Therefore, she has students’ names and their past files. However, Gherardi hasn’t yet decided how Parkside will deal with the meal plans.
“We consider this a short term interruption, and expect to work with students on reasonable transition plans. This won’t affect the part-timers as much because their meal plan is not time binding, meaning they get a certain amount of meals per month, rather than the full-timers who go by weeks and whose meals stop and start.”
Gherardi plans to use the Parkside website as a communication tool between the community and herself.