Reporting Cherri Gregg
By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - As City Council’s Special Investigative Committee resumes hearings today on city demolition procedures, a West Philadelphia cafe is reopening its doors for the first time in eight months. The business fell victim to a demolition gone wrong.
It was Christmas Eve when Elena’s Soul near 49th and Baltimore Avenue caught fire, gutting the building and causing smoke damage to nearby businesses. To make matters worse, days later as a contractor attempted to demolish the burnt out shell, a section of the wall of the multi-story Elena’s crashed onto the two adjacent single-story businesses.
“While they were demolishing the building, all the roof collapsed in,” says Nicole Lee, owner of Cedar Park Cafe. “I was so sad. All of my employees kept asking and asking what could have happened.”
The collapse destroyed almost everything inside of the building. But Lee says they are lucky.
“[After the fire] they said I could not go back inside and I was said ‘that’s my building,’” she says, “but when I saw on the news about the 22nd Street collapse I almost cried. It’s the same situation I had, but luckily we didn’t have anyone inside so no one got hurt.”
The cafe was just over a year old, but good food and customer service made it extremely popular in the neighborhood. It has rave reviews on Yelp and was set to appear on Food Network when the fire derailed those plans.
“The community, they helped us a lot,” says Lee, “they held a fundraiser and more than 200 people came.”
Lee says insurance helped foot the bill for tens of thousands in damage, including a new roof, new floors, tables, a staging area and more. And eight months later, while there are no traces of Elena’s Soul and Gary’s Nails still remains shuttered Cedar Park Cafe appears to be rising from the ashes.
“We are kind of happy to be back here, we’re kind of excited,” says Lee.
“The best thing is to have everybody back as one big family,” says Kimberly Tucker, manager at Cedar Park Cafe. She says all of the original employees will return to work. “I’m happy but I wonder if we’ll get the same reaction we got before, so I’m also a little anxious.”
Cedar Park Cafe is known for its scrapple sandwiches. Hopefully, a little gravy added to their resilience will pay off.