BUFFALO, N.Y. — An accidental fire caused $300,000 worth of damage at the West Side Bazaar in Buffalo Tuesday morning.
Now business owners are stuck without a space until it reopens or a temporary space becomes available.
Akec Aguer was dropping his daughter off at the bus stop when he saw lots of fire trucks.
"Three of them. And I said, wow, that should be a big fire. Why did I miss this? In a couple of minutes, another three on the other side," explained Akec Aguer, owner of Nile River Restaurant.
Aguer owns Nile River, a South Sudanese restaurant at the West Side Bazaar. Soon after his daughter got on the bus, she called him.
"Because she's passing this way and she sees that one, she called me and told me, Daddy, that West Side Bazaar was on fire. I said, what, West Side Bazaar, and then I got in my car right away," said Akec Aguer.
When Aguer was allowed inside to check out the damage, he discovered the fire started at a restaurant stationed next to his.
The West Side Bazaar is home to seven restaurants including Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine, which has been there longer than any of the others.
"I lose my business, we lose our business, customers, everything, and it's shocking," said Zelalem Gemmeda, owner of Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine.
Firefighters got there just after 6:30 in the morning. They ruled the fire accidental, saying it started in the kitchen area and involved a countertop fryer.
"It's really very miserable for me, I was not happy about it at all. Yeah, some of my stuff is gone, because of the fire, we are like this. So when the fire started, it started in the side that is next to my thing. So I have a sign-up that's gone," said Akec Aguer.
"A sort of sad downside of a fire on a Tuesday morning is that we're closed Mondays, and that's when all the restaurateurs load all their food in for the week. So they've lost their week's worth of food," said Erin St. John Kelly, Director of External Relations at WEDI.
And, they were just getting back to pre-pandemic business levels.
"We're really hoping that the community will help us find kitchens for everybody to start cooking again because these are their livelihoods. Even if people have second jobs, that's a second shift. Not a job they do instead of this, and we're gonna need everybody's help to get them back on their feet," said Erin St. John Kelly.
The good thing is, no one was in the building when the fire started and no one got hurt. They're still trying to figure out how long it will take to reopen.
The new West Side Bazaar is scheduled to open a year from now on Niagara Street.