The fire that destroyed Sal’s by Victor and damaged several other stores in the Williamsburg Shopping Center on Richmond Road Tuesday morning has left some 50 employees of the popular Italian restaurant unemployed.
“That’s quite a few,” Williamsburg’s economic development manager Michele DeWitt said. “Of course I talked to [owner] Victor [Minichiello] a couple times and … he’s probably still in a state of shock. [We] just assured him that the city was here to help him reopen as soon as we can.”
DeWitt and other city employees were on hand yesterday to provide support and assistance to Sal’s and other businesses. Read the story about the fire here.
“I spent the day there letting them all know we certainly want them to get back on their feet as quickly as possible and anything we can do, we’re happy to step up and do it,” DeWitt said. “In terms of any permits needed from the city, I mean, we’re always very quick about issuing permits in the city of Williamsburg, but we would expedite in any way we could getting through our process so that they could reopen. We also could link them with any small business resources that they need, to discuss plans or lending needs or financial needs around this hopefully short-term period they’d be closed.”
The city is also finding support for employees finding themselves out of work. The city, along with the Virginia Employment Commission and the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development, are offering help with food stamps, Medicaid, children’s insurance and even emergency assistance for rent, food and clothing.
Employees of Sal’s are likely the only ones severely affected by the fire. Employees at the adjacent Hallmark, which sustained some fire damage, will be temporarily assigned to other area Hallmarks until the store reopens.
Bloom, which is close to Sal’s but located in a separate building, was unaffected, and stores located on the far side of the pizzeria’s building, including CVS and Books-A-Million, reopened yesterday. Other businesses located closer to the fire damage, including a Radio Shack, ABC liquor store and a day spa, should reopen within a few days or a week.
The economic impact of the lost business will be small to the city, DeWitt said. Nevertheless, assisting the stores in reopening and Sal’s in rebuilding is important.
“It’s a few businesses, but it’s important that not only they reopen to provide the tax revenue, but locals love those stores, and it helps keep the shopping center vibrant,” DeWitt said. “The dollar amount is not going to be huge for the city, but still, they’re one of our assisting businesses so it’s important to us that we do everything we can to help them reopen.”