On the ground floor of a stately brick Adams-Morgan building, an art gallery and a goldsmith carried on holiday business as usual last week, but upstairs desks were unmanned, there were charred holes in the ceiling and offices were littered with fire debris.
Tenants of the offices, the law firm of Maggio & Kattar and an audiovisual production firm, Eli Productions, were working in temporary quarters after a fire Tuesday night damaged the upper floors of the building at 1800 Belmont St. NW.
Four small firms were affected by the fire, but owners and employes of all the firms said the help of other businesses in the bustling commercial area had been crucial in their determination to keep their operations in the neighborhood.
Ronald Chism, owner for a year of the ground floor Sun Gallery, said that business was "back to normal, so to speak. All in all, it really wasn't bad. [Tuesday] it looked awesome!"
Jamal Mims, whose Sun Gallery Goldsmiths is a ground floor neighbor, said "business is booming" and that his shop would be back in order with "a little overtime." Mims' shop and Chism's gallery received mostly minor water damage.
"We've gotten a really good response from the community," Mims said. "A couple of the merchants came by and asked if there's anything they can do. Everybody was sad that it happened but glad to help."
Michael Maggio, who was among those who watched Tuesday night as flames poked through the building's roof, said the fire started on a third-floor porch that he had closed off two years ago when he began finding mattresses and other articles there, apparently placed there by homeless persons in search of shelter.
D.C. fire investigators said the fire was the result of a "discarded hot object." Maggio's explanation: "It was cold. This is a homeless fire." Total damage was estimated at $40,000.
"Thank God our files weren't damaged," said Maggio, who on the night of the blaze had rushed past firefighters to check on valuable papers. Maggio, a resident of the area, was alerted by a neighbor who works for the building's third-floor tenant, Eli Productions.
"We heard the sirens so we ran down," said Karen Shimkus, a production manager for Eli Productions. "I'm just glad it didn't gut it."
"It's not going to put us out of commission," Shimkus said Tuesday night. She was right.
As the business week ended Friday, Eli was able meet its weekly production schedule of two episodes each of "Modern Maturity" for television and "Prime Time," a radio show.
Amy Greene, also a production manager, stood in a tiny room littered with audio tapes. A large chunk of the ceiling was missing, providing a view into a blackened attic turret where the bulk of the fire had been.
Wednesday, "we had to resurrect tapes from the rubble to finish a radio show," Greene said. In the hall, employes moved bag after bag of plaster and wood.
"We were lucky because we had two small offices across Belmont Street and I live in the neighborhood," Shimkus said. "We haven't lost any work. Yes, it's traumatic, but we're managing," adding that support from the Washington film and video community and from Adams-Morgan businesses has been "terrific."
Candace Kattar and Michael Maggio kept their law practice operating by working out of two area apartments. Kattar, legal assistant Teresa Arene and legal secretary Mary Pierri worked on immigration cases and soothed worried clients from Kattar's Connecticut Avenue NW studio apartment, newly cluttered with files, typewriters and a postage meter.
"We're looking for some temporary space in the area," she said. But clients, some of whom were "hysterical" when they could not reach the firm by telephone Wednesday, now have to settle for interviews conducted on Kattar's bed.