When three East Rockaway businesses were severely damaged by an early morning fire on Aug. 8, it did not take long for the community to rally around them.
Many residents, business owners and elected officials rushed to aid B Bistro: A Taste of Vietnam, the VIP Love Your Pet grooming shop and Nikki’s Bakery after each of them suffered damage in the blaze. The Village Pride Party and the Village Foundation banded together to co-host “A Taste of East Rockaway” on Main Street on Sept. 17 to raise funds for the businesses.
“I think it’s great,” said Lee Bradley, the owner of B Bistro. “I never expected that and I never asked for anything. It’s wonderful how much the community came through.”
Though his business remains closed after the fire damage, Bradley was one of 10 business owners who had tables set up along Main Street during the event. For $25 for adults and $10 for children, attendees were able to sample some favorites from different restaurants, including River Mill, EGP Oceanside, Pastosa Ravioli, Villa Maria, Heavenly Coffee, Lazy Lobster, Greek X-press, La Favorita and Rocco Anthony’s Catering.
In addition to the businesses who organized tables and offered samples of their food, 45 other establishments donated money or paid for sponsorships and raffle prizes. In addition to the food, representatives from After Shock hair design offered $20 haircuts during the event, with all proceeds going to the affected businesses, and Witches Brew and Michelle Landerer donated their time to perform music.
“I thought it went very well,” said Charlene Fried, one of the event’s organizers. “In a very short time, the community rallied and for such a small town of approximately 100 businesses, almost half of them stepped up to the plate immediately.”
Fried organized the event along with fellow residents, including her husband, Steve Fried, Tim O’Hagan and Cindy Lark. More than 100 people attended the event and Fried said it may become an annual outing to support people in need and showcase the village’s many vibrant businesses. She thanked the Auxiliary Police Department for barricading the road and controlling traffic and the Department of Public Works for helping to set-up and take down the event.
B Bistro was new to the village, having opened on May 28, less than three months before the fire. Bradley, a dancer by trade, said he was compelled to open a restaurant because his family has always enjoyed cooking and he wanted to bring Vietnamese cuisine to the village. Bradley, a resident of Valley Stream, said he was grateful that the East Rockaway community embraced him in such a short time.
Bradley was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and his father served as an American soldier in the Vietnam War, escaping the country with his family in 1975. He called it unfortunate that he had to close just two months after opening, but said he hoped to re-open soon. The fire was caused by an electrical surge after a lightning storm at about 1 a.m. Though it could take from six months to a year to re-open, Bradley said, he has been looking into renting kitchens in order to continue his business through delivery and take-out service, and has contemplated renting a food truck. He has also stayed active in the community, serving Vietnamese sandwiches at the Taste of East Rockaway event and the village’s Stars & Stripes Festival earlier this month.
Bradley said he was grateful for the community’s support. “You don’t realize how much people appreciate you until unfortunately a tragedy like this happens,” he said. “I was trying to make an impact, but I didn’t realize it would go that far.”