The Mirdita family, owners of the Bainbridge Bakery, a popular local establishment that burned down along with nine other businesses in a horrific Halloween morning fire, is upset and angry.
Their business, which they’ve operated in the Bronx for 30 years and on Bainbridge Avenue for the past 18, went up in smoke for the second time in six months.
Following a mysterious fire in April, the family spent months and hundreds of thousands of dollars putting their bakery back together. Just two days before they were to re-open (and start being insured again), another fire of unknown origin is forcing them to start over yet again. This time, there is no insurance money and, for the foreseeable future, no place to rebuild.
On Monday morning, outside the remnants of the bakery, matriarch Anna Mirdita was inconsolable. She felt “terrible,” she said. “The city is no help. No one is helping us. No one.”
A week after the fire, local Community Board 7 and other local groups got all the fire victims, including Mirdita, into a room with representatives from banks, small business groups and various city and state agencies.
The agency representatives said they would work hard to get the victims back up and running. There were banks in attendance to talk about securing loans for rebuilding. The state insurance agency worked with merchants in a private room. Dina Minz, of the city’s Department of Small Business Services, said her agency would help business owners apply for loans, get temporary work and find other tax abatement and incentive programs.
The somber merchants tried to be appreciative of the efforts, but many were skeptical that things would turn in their favor.
Mir Mansur, who has owned and operated Neighborhood Gift and Wireless for the past three years, said he had no insurance and wasn’t sure anyone could help him or what he would do next. “Ask yourself how you would feel,” he said. “My money, everything, is in that store.”
The owners of Latin restaurant El Diamante did have insurance, but “not enough,” said Francisco Diaz. He had recently just put in new booths and seating as well as a $20,000 air conditioner. Diaz and his partners own two other restaurants, one on Webster Avenue and another on Jerome, which will keep them afloat while they look for a new location.
But finding space is another thing. There are few vacant locations on Bainbridge and 204th Street, but last week, Diaz said they were looking at possibly renting the space on Bainbridge and Van Cortlandt, near Williamsbridge Oval Park, that was most recently home to the nightclub El Noche.
Sun Yun, whose family had owned and operated the fish market that has existed on Bainbridge for more than a decade, said the representatives had been helpful and that she was hoping to secure a loan. But like the rest of the merchants, she didn’t know where they would relocate.
Nabil Naser, part owner of 205 Grocery sounded a more upbeat tone, despite the fact that he and his business partners had no insurance. “It’s devastating, but, as they say, stuff happens for a reason, hopefully not a bad reason,” he said. “You stick around, good things might happen.”
Since the meeting, Mirdita and her son, John, who is part owner of the bakery, say they have received little help from any of the agencies or business groups that they spoke with at the meeting.
“You talk to one person, they tell you to talk to someone else or call a different agency,” Mirdita said.
John Mirdita said Small Business Services offered to give them a $1,000 loan. “What can you do with $1,000?” he said. “You can’t even get a one-room apartment with $1,000.”
They said they would be forced to sell their house just to survive.
With no answers in sight, the Mirdita family was left with only questions.
“What are we going to do?” John Mirdita said. “Where are we going to go?”