Owners of bakery damaged in International District Fire: 'We're grieving'

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherGrafK5

KING5.com

Posted on December 26, 2013 at 11:03 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 26 at 11:35 PM

Thursday afternoon, traffic began moving on South King Street for the first time since the Christmas Eve fire in the International District.  City officials felt it was safe to re-open the roadway.  The same can't be said for some businesses.

Among the four business given red tags by fire officials, meaning it's not safe for the owners to re-enter the building, is Mon Hei Bakery.

"It's hard.  We're in the loss and grieving stage at the moment," said Aaron Chan.

His family has run the shop out of that location for more than 30 years.

"Mon Hei was the first Chinese bakery in Seattle," he said.  "It started when my grandfather immigrated here in 1979."

Chan says Tuesday's fire has been nothing short of devastating for his family.  They've lost thousands of dollars in equipment and lost business during one of their busiest times of the year, but it's more than that.

He says some of the items still inside the smoke and water-damaged storefront hold great sentimental value.

"Our family is really concerned about getting back three plaques, that were founded within our family," he said.  "One is a phoenix, on is a dragon, and one is business crest."

The plaques are mounted firmly to the walls inside the shop.

Chan's been told he'll likely be allowed inside for five minutes on Friday, but he doesn't think that will be enough time to remove the plaques from the walls.

The future of the business is equally uncertain.

Chan says his family wants to re-open for the community that has long relied on them for traditional Chinese mooncakes, cocktail buns, and wedding cakes, but he says his parents are both close to retirement and the stress of starting over may be too much to handle.

"It's such an emotional, physical, and financial stress on my parents," he said.

According to the Seattle Fire Department, it's now up to the owners of the building to bring in their insurance company and their own structural engineers, to determine if it can be saved.

If not, the eight businesses operating out of the ground floor will all have to find new homes, or close for good. If the building can be saved, the structural repairs will likely keep those shops and restaurants closed for months.

Chan says it's a decision his family will make as things move forward.  Right now, they're taking it one day at a time.

 

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