Blaze destroys D.C. landmark Almost New tire shop

The cause of the landmark's Memorial Day fire is unknown.
The cause of the landmark's Memorial Day fire is unknown. (Nikki Kahn/the Washington Post)
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By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In a city filled with monuments that draw tourists from all over the world, the 5.5 million inhabitants of the Washington region recognize a subset of landmarks that the tour buses never visit. These might be called commuter landmarks, places that hold the interest of Washingtonians while they sit stuck in traffic.

They include the likes of the Mormon Church spires off the Capital Beltway, the Andrews air base water tower and the one that burned down on Monday: the Almost New used-tire and hubcap shop on New York Avenue, near another former commuter landmark, the now-shuttered Hecht Co. Warehouse.

Located at a traffic light where cars often back up for blocks in both directions, Almost New was so covered in shiny hubcaps that it made a welcome alternative to looking at 10,000 brake lights blocking the road to home.

Memorial Day was the rare occasion in more than 11 years that Almost New took a holiday.

"It was the first time in six months that I've had a day off," owner T.J. McCann said.

His holiday with the family ended suddenly with a call just after 5 p.m. that his business was on fire. By the time he arrived, a thick black plume was rising from tires burning inside.

Investigators had not determined the fire's cause Tuesday, and McCann pondered the question as he inspected his burned and boarded-up business.

"There's nothing in there that's flammable. You rub two tires together, they don't make a spark," he said. "I don't even want to speculate."

Despite past burglaries and thefts, McCann said, he had not had issues with customers or people in the neighborhood.

"There's nothing left inside," he said. "All of my machines and all of my inventory are gone. I have insurance, but I don't know if it will cover the whole building."

Nevertheless, McCann said, he'll be back in business. He is a second-generation tire and hubcap merchant.

"I'll do something," he said. "I'll be back in business again soon enough."

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