Operating a restaurant is often a labor of love. Besides working long hours, monitoring food quality and overseeing the menu and design of a restaurant, owners face tremendous difficulties if a disaster forces them to shut down. This is the scenario Assadullah Niazy is facing as he tries to reopen his Maple Avenue restaurant, Panjshir II, after a September fire.
"The timing is what's killing us. We don't know when we're going to reopen," Niazy said.
The businesses of the Rappaport Management property on the 200 block of Maple Avenue West are in the process of rebuilding their shops after a Sept. 27 fire caused the whole building to shut down. While the sandwich shop Subway has been the first to reopen, others are waiting for insurance policies to kick in or for cleanup to be completed.
"We kept our store very nice and neat, and it's all destroyed," said Tony Tavakol, co-owner of Ideal Tile.
All six businesses on the strip were affected by the Sept. 27 fire, which occurred in the Yoga Meditation business because of an accidental electrical anomaly, according to Fairfax Fire and Rescue spokesman Dan Schmidt. Fifty firefighters responded to the two-alarm, Saturday morning fire, bringing it under control in 45 minutes.
The fire, which caused $500,000 in damages, caused heat and smoke damage in the other parts of the building, forcing it to be condemned.
Since the fire several weeks ago, businesses have been slowly rebuilding themselves until they can reopen. The restaurant Subway was the first to reopen last week.
"Hopefully we can get our business back to normal. ... We're still hanging on the edge, basically," said Niazy, who added he's used his credit cards and life savings to get by.
Niazy has received approvals from the county health department and the state Alcohol Beverage Control department but is waiting for insurance reports. He estimates his restaurant has had $200,000 in damages and expects to install a new carpet, ceilings and walls.
"Anything you touch is pretty much black," Niazy said.
Meanwhile, Tavakol had the phone number of Ideal Tile transferred to his cell phone, and he travels with some of his company's supplies. He lamented the loss of business, adding that many customers weren't willing to drive up to a showroom in Sterling.
Tavakol hopes he can reopen in three weeks, once cleanup finishes.
"It's hard to operate like [this] on a daily basis," Tavakol said.
An early December opening is the target date for Niazy's restaurant, which serves Afghan food.
"The only good thing is when I get an OK," said Niazy. "Hopefully, we can have customers come back, and we can continue the business."