ANDERSONVILLE — Business owners and residents are trying to rebuild from a massive fire on Clark Street over the weekend that reduced two buildings to ash.
The Saturday morning fire engulfed two auto shops on the 5000 block of North Clark Street. The fire occurred in a closed pop-up COVID-19 testing site inside Smashy Auto, 5006 N. Clark St.
The buildings holding Star Auto and Smashy Auto were demolished this week by the city’s Department of Buildings. The fire also badly damaged the OrangeTheory Fitness building and others behind the auto shops, officials said.
The cause of the fire is still unknown and under investigation, Fire Department spokesman Larry Merritt said.
Imran Chaudhry, whose father owned the Star Auto building where the family has been in business since 1990, said the past few days have been “really hectic.”
“My parents have been really stressed out,” Chaudhry said. “It’s a family-run business. I worked there, my brother worked there. … It’s something really unexpected. It’s been a big shock for us.”
Chaudhry said the family has received a lot of support from friends and community members as they reassess how to revive the 32-year-old business. His family is working on setting up a GoFundMe campaign, he said.
“Our ideal situation is just getting our business back up either in this location or another location,” Chaudhry said.
Smashy Auto owners did not respond to requests for comment.
Laura Reimers, Ald. Matt Martin’s (47th) chief of staff, said some pieces of the terra cotta faces carved into the front of Smashy Auto were recovered from the demolition. Those could “potentially be incorporated into a new development or whatever is rebuilt in some way that is special for the community,” she said.
The fire forced organizers to cancel the pot-friendly street festival Waldo’s Forever Fest. The festival, hosted by Dispensary 33, was set to make its first run since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic; instead, organizers held a smaller make-up event that night.
Reimers said the fire also displaced at least two people. Local drag artist Travis Fiero chronicled having to evacuate their apartment on their Instagram page and asked for help finding temporary housing.
“We’ve heard an outpouring of support for the small businesses that were impacted by the festival being canceled and the water and fire damage,” Reimers said.
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