How downtown businesses are rebuilding after devastating fire


In a matter of hours on Jan. 27, a chaotic fire, which started at Jadwiga’s Polish American Deli on West Lincoln Avenue, swept through the heart of the village’s business district, trampling over a trio of locally-owned corner stores on Rockaway Avenue – Long Island Hearing Center of Long Island, Valley Stream Pharmacy, and Orange Skye Day Spa.

The destruction leveled against the storefronts, all of which have stood there for years, and in some cases decades, was so complete that they were practically dislocated from the village’s downtown. Now, their business owners are struggling to make their stores whole again, and for most of them, questions of where to restart and how soon remain unclear.

For Dr. Larry Cardano, owner of the Long Island Hearing Center, it was not long after the fire he began scouring for a new location for his hearing practice – and he found one. His new office space, located at 20 West Lincoln Avenue, is a stone’s throw away from his original spot, which he opened in 1996.

The Takeaway 

  • A fire on Jan. 27 devastated several locally-owned corner stores in Valley Stream's business district, as owners grapple with the challenge of rebuilding their establishments, with uncertainties about where to restart and how soon.
  •  Following the fire, community members rallied to support affected businesses through online fundraising efforts. 
  • The Valley Stream Chamber of Commerce organized relief efforts to support affected businesses, including a partnership with BJ’s Brewhouse, to raise funds for affected establishments. 

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While some elements of the new office space are still under construction, Cardano has been seeing patients since early February. What’s more, he says that despite the tragic loss of the original office, the new space represents a net gain for himself and his patients.

“Our patients don’t have to travel that far from the original site,” he said, and he refashioned the new office space in a way that allows him to upgrade his equipment based on the newest methods of treatment.”

The Hearing Center’s quick rebound, however, appears to be an exception.


Donations pour in to restore  downtown stores

For the businesses that remain, it stands to reason that replacing what was lost has not been simple. For weeks, family, friends, and employees of the affected business owners have looked online for outside donations. Jadwiga’s Polish American Deli is one of them.

For those unfamiliar with Jadwiga’s, the once narrow storefront, operated by Jadwiga Strzepa and her family for nearly two decades, had garnered a reputation as the go-to destination for traditional Polish products, ranging from well-known classics like kielbasa to lesser-known items like pickled mushrooms. Kaisa Jankowski, a lifelong friend of the Strzepa family, launched a GoFundMe campaign to save the deli.

“She (Jadwiga) didn’t think twice when someone asked for help and it is times like these, we need to lend a helping hand to such a selfless and caring individual,” Jankowski wrote on the GoFundMe page.

“That is why as friends and customers of Jadwiga and her Deli, we ask for your help in getting the family back on their feet. Although thankful that no one was injured, the family is devastated that their long-time family business, in a matter of minutes, is gone.”

As of press time, Jankowksi, who declined to be interviewed, has accrued nearly $8,000 for the family. 

Alisha Sohail, an intern at the Valley Stream Pharmacy, also launched her online fundraising campaign to help its owner, Azzam Elcheikh.

“Azzam has become a beloved figure in Valley Stream by consistently providing essential services, ensuring access to medications, and offering friendly, personalized care through his pharmacy,” she wrote in her plea for support. “The devastating fire took away eight years of hard work and dedication in an instant.”

The online fundraiser, which is now closed, raised about $1,300. And there seem to be some encouraging signs regarding the pharmacy’s comeback.


Chamber organizes relief efforts

“It was discussed at a recent chamber board meeting that the pharmacy has found a new space on Rockaway,” said Joosoo Kim, a realtor and board member for the Valley Stream Chamber of Commerce. Many of “the businesses want to stay on Rockaway.”

Kim jump-started her online fundraiser on behalf of the Chamber and has racked up less than half of their $10,000 goal as of press time. Whatever money is raised, with the fundraiser expected to close by the end of the month, will be split evenly among the five businesses. The fifth store was Integral Electric Co. which Kim said sat just to the right of the Polish Deli and experienced “smoke contamination and their interior was damaged.”

Even though only a single Chamber member, the L.I. Hearing Center, was hurt by the fire, the Chamber felt that “helping all these local businesses was the only right thing to do,” noted Kim. “It’s easy for us to forget other’s suffering when it’s not our family or friends involved. So, when these businesses do open, you know, we must welcome them back and let them know they were missed.”

A modest donation will also be given thanks to droves of residents and organizations who came out in a big show of solidarity at a fundraiser at BJ’s Brewhouse on Feb. 16. In partnership with the Chamber, BJ’s Brewhouse pledged to donate 20 percent of food and soft beverage sales for every flyer with a donation code presented during the fundraiser.

“We fundraised over $600,” said Joey Verrengia, general manager of the restaurant and brew house at Green Acres. “We wanted to step up and provide the resources that we have as a company to help give back. The event had a great turnout and a lot of first-time guests.”

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