A story in the Metro section on Monday incorrectly identified one of the shops damaged in a fire last Saturday at the Kensington Shopping Center on Connecticut Avenue. The name of the shop is Ruffle's of London and John's Hair Salon.
Terry Vo pulled another scorched bicycle from inside his boarded-up bicycle repair shop yesterday afternoon and threw it on the growing heap of charred 10-speeds and melted plastic, almost all that's left of his store after a fire Saturday at the Kensington Shopping Center.
It took Vo, a 58-year-old Vietnamese who came to the United States in 1975, eight years to build his Kensington Central Bicycle shop into a successful business. To keep regular customers in a seasonal business, he took bicycles home to make promised repairs late into the night. He reinvested modest profits, buying new equipment and making improvements in the store. In less than two hours, fire had destroyed it.
"Everything burned up," said Vo, who said his meager insurance coverage will not allow him to reopen. "To start up again, I need about $50,000. No. There's no way to do that."
Montgomery County fire officials said the fire started in a light fixture in Vo's store about 3:30 p.m. Saturday and quickly spread through the ceilings to adjacent stores, which were without the protection of firewalls. The fire, which took firefighters about 90 minutes to control, caused an estimated $650,000 damage to several stores in the shopping center in the 10500 block of Connecticut Avenue. No one was injured, fire officials said, but all of the 12 shops will be closed temporarily.
Boards covered most of the storefronts yesterday. Molline's Boutique & Bridal Wearing Apparel business suffered relatively little damage, but firefighters tore out about one-fifth of the ceiling while battling the fire. Next door, a trail of water flowed from the Neet 'N Kleen dry cleaners. Vogue Coiffures was so damaged that owners didn't bother to lock the front entrance.
Vo was inside his store with a customer when the fire started. The two men heard a noise in the ceiling, Vo said, and saw flames when he pushed a ceiling panel aside with a pole. "I tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher," he said, "but I couldn't reach it."
The fire destroyed about 50 new bicycles, but Vo was able to get his customers' bikes out before firefighters arrived. Many of those customers came for their bikes yesterday. "People have come by wondering about their bikes, but they have been really nice about what happened," he said.
"Fortunately, my son's bike was at Vo's home," said James Crawford of Silver Spring, who also had ordered a new bicycle through Vo. "I think he had a good business. I've been here almost every weekend over the past month and have seen him fixing up the shop. I'm very sorry to hear that he won't reopen."
For Molline Sugarman, who has operated Molline's Boutique & Bridal Wearing Apparel at the same location for 24 years, the fire couldn't have come at a worse time.
"Right in the middle of prom season, can you believe it?" said Sugarman, who also fielded questions from customers who dropped by the store. "Thank God I've got a good reputation. My customers will come back. I'm a legend. But this season is the height of our business. When will they allow us to reopen? When?"
James Cooper, a former Kensington resident who lives in the Garrett Park area, dropped by the shopping center yesterday to survey damage to the Hong Kong Restaurant that he still patronizes. The restaurant was boarded up, but the front door was locked. No owners were around.
"I ate there with my sons last Thursday," Cooper said. "A lot of people in Kensington eat there. I'll miss the place if they have to close it down."