An early morning fire in Leaside has destroyed a family-run laundry business that has been serving the community for over two decades.
Around 3 a.m. this morning a two-alarm blaze broke out at Leaside Cleaners, located on Bayview Avenue, just south of Millwood Road.
Stephan Powell of Toronto Fire said from the time fire crews got the call, it took about an hour to control the blaze. Power and gas lines were also shut off, which affected a few neighbouring businesses and second-floor residences.
“It appears the fire started in the basement,” Powell said, adding there were no flames to be found on the first or second floor when firefighters arrived, but heavy smoke was coming from the basement.
No one was hurt in the blaze, though residents above the stores were evacuated from the building.
Powell said the fire is still under investigation and he expected to know the cause in a few days. Also heavily damaged was Flower Nook, the floral shop right next door to the cleaners.
Mimi Rassias, who with her husband Phillip have owned and operated Leaside Cleaners for 22 years, said she was alerted to the fire by a friend who lives adjacent to the store. Standing outside the building with half a dozen relatives, Rassias said it had been an emotional morning.
“At the beginning I came and I was crying, I was screaming, I was devastated,” she said. “I thought I was losing everything. Now, I feel a bit better.”
Rassias said she appreciated the outpouring of support from the local community.
“All the neighbours here, all the stores they ask if there’s anything I need. They all came and offered their support,” she said. “I cannot believe it.”
Just two doors down from the cleaners, McSorley’s Saloon and Grill remained without power into the early afternoon.
Standing outside surveying the scene, pub co-owner Simon Hanlon said luckily his business wasn’t damaged. He expected to be open for business in the evening, once hydro crews restored power to the strip.
Hanlon, who’s been in the area 20 years, said he felt horrible for the Rassias family.
“(They have) a very large rebuild, a long road back,” he said. “My heart goes out to them.”
Reverend Beth Benson from St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church said she was having lunch at a nearby restaurant when she saw the crowds outside the building.
She came over to offer Mimi a hug and see if there’s anything she could do.
“Leaside still has the important qualities of a village,” she said. “People really, really care about each other here.”
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