It’s been more than eight months since a fire damaged a row of a dozen stores on West Merrick Road, between Dale Place and Shaw Avenue. Now, most of the stores on the block have reopened, while work continues at the others.
Dale Drugs, a cornerstone business in Valley Stream for more than 60 years, has been owned by Bobby DeVivo since 1995. Following the fire, he temporarily moved the business five blocks east on Merrick Road, opening up there less than one month later.
The fire began shortly before 11 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2012, in Merrick Dry Cleaners, and spread to Kim Wong Chinese Kitchen and Dale Drug before firefighters were able to control it. DeVivo’s new location opened on Sept. 4, but he said business has not been the same since.
“Here I don’t have too much foot traffic, whereas that store was on a block with 10 stores, the supermarket across the street,” he said. “It hasn’t been an easy thing, but I’m dealing. What am I going to do?”
DeVivo added that his customers have been great through it all, but some people who live close to his damaged location have not made the trip down the block to his current store.
Several other businesses suffered smoke and water damage. Ceilings were broken open in the other stores because the fire spread through the attic. Charles Brocher, first assistant chief of the Valley Stream Fire Department, said that firefighters had to make sure the flames didn’t spread any farther.
More than 100 firefighters from eight departments battled the three-alarm blaze, which took about an hour and a half to bring under control. Brocher said that the dry-cleaner and Chinese restaurant were already engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, and the blaze was spreading into the drug store.
Kim Wong, the owner of Kim Wong Chinese Kitchen, reopened in early April, but said being closed for so long really hurt his business. “We lost a lot of customers,” he said. “I want my customers back. We were closed a long time.”
Since he reopened, Wong said his sales have been “so-so” and he added that many people are unaware that he is back in business. “We lost a lot,” he said.