Algonquin Plaza tenants still hurting
It’s been almost a month since a blaze destroyed half of the Algonquin Plaza on Rt. 52 in Newburgh, and although the rubble has been cleared, business owners say the damage is far from forgotten.
Of the 10 stores in the plaza, five were destroyed in the fire on Friday, Jan. 6: Monell’s Camera, TFS Asian Foodmart, Woodbury Cleaners, Lawrence B. Miller Insurance Co. and the offices of the 100th Assembly District formerly served by the late Tom Kirwan. Spared the wrath of the flames – thanks to a firewall on the west side of Monell’s – were Adams Family Floors, NYC Flair Fashion, the post office and J.B.’s Luncheonette.
Algonquin Plaza owner Donna Adams, of Adams Family Floors, says she and her husband Gary intend to rebuild the plaza as quickly as possible. The rebuilding process should take between six and eight months, she said.
“Our insurance has been excellent; our company has been excellent. We’re already starting to get rough prices,” Adams said. “We want it to match just how it looked before.
“We have a lot of work cut out for us.”
The Adamses have owned the Algonquin Plaza – which was constructed in the 1960s – for about five and a half years.
Adams praised the response of the firefighters who helped save half the plaza. She stressed that even though some of the stores were occupied when the fire began, no one was injured.
“It could have been a lot worse,” she said.
However, some of the businesses left standing are suffering residual effects of the fire. Although the post office seems to be continuing business unabated, as of Tuesday, Feb. 7, NYC Flair Fashion was closed, with signage proclaiming that the store would be “re-opening soon with new inventory.”
John Byrne, owner of J.B.’s Luncheonette, says that even though his restaurant escaped the flames, they still singed his profits.
“I lost half my business,” Byrne said. “We’re missing [several] stores here right now and most of them were my customers – and their customers were my customers. My business was slow to begin with and now it’s cut in half.
“The fire is basically killing me if I don’t start getting customers back. A lot of people don’t even come to the mall anymore.”
J.B.’s Luncheonette has been a part of the plaza for more than a decade. Byrne said that having so few neighboring businesses is foreign to him.
“Hopefully soon the dress shop will be back and I think the insurance company is moving in to the store next to them, but we’re still missing five stores after that until they rebuild it,” he said.
When asked if his restaurant can survive the coming months as the plaza is rebuilt, Byrne replied, “I don’t know. I’m struggling now. I need whatever I can get. [If] people want to see small little luncheonettes survive, they’ve got to come and spend some money so I can pay my bills.”
But Byrne is not the only one having a tough time in the aftermath of the fire.
Stuck on the fence around the empty lot where Monell’s used to stand is a sign directing anyone with questions about the shop to call Ron Palmer, son of the owner and an employee of the store for the last 18 years. Though one might interpret that as an indication that the shop is still taking orders and fixing cameras, Palmer says that’s not the case.
“We have no way to really do business. We have no credit card machine, no register [and] the paperwork just doesn’t exist,” said Palmer. “At the current time we’re really just in limbo until we figure out what the insurance companies can do to help us and go from there.”
He added that losing the camera shop lead to a feeling of “devastation. It’s just very hard to deal with,” said Palmer. “[My father] is upset; this whole thing has been upsetting to the whole family.”
The next step for Palmer and his father is working with insurance companies and trying to find out exactly what was lost in the blaze. Palmer says that all of the stock was inside the store at the time of the fire. Nothing could be salvaged.
Fortunately, Palmer believes that no customers had equipment being worked on at the shop when the fire broke out. He was unsure, however, if any other property belonging to customers was lost.
“There’s just a lot of things that we don’t know,” he said. “That’s the problem.”
One of those unknowns is the future of Monell’s. Palmer says that he and his father want to recreate the shop, but he doesn’t know if they’ll get the chance.
“Until we settle with the insurance companies, there’s no way of knowing 100 percent,” said Palmer. “Equipment is expensive and it takes time to go through the process. I hope that we can return to our old familiar ways and serve the community.”
Adams said that despite a few days of downtime immediately following the fire, Adams Family Flooring has experienced only a very small a dip in their volume of customers.
“We got a few phone calls making sure we were okay: ‘Are you guys opened up for business?’” Adams said. “That’s why I wanted to send that letter [printed in last week’s Mid Hudson Times] to make sure that everybody knew that we weren’t affected.”
Adams added that this is historically a slow time of year for her flooring business regardless of the blaze.
Though Adams Family Flooring has been relatively unaffected, the blaze that destroyed half the Algonquin Plaza still weighs heavy on the Adams’s minds.
“It’s been very, very stressful for us. We lost half of our building. I feel bad for them [the others in the plaza] because they also lost their business too, which is their livelihood. We still have our business. We were fortunate in that way,” said Adams. “We’re trying to put a positive spin on it. Things could always be worse.”
By Matt Frey