I write to you about a story of "community" here in Hartford.
It started with Kevin Brookman when I returned home and picked up my cellphone, I saw one of my missed calls was from him. I texted and he called right back asking if I had heard about my friends' building, City Fare on Franklin Avenue -- it was on fire. I thanked him profusely for caring to reach out and immediately left home again with such a heavy heart. I love that building with its warm and inviting interior and old-fashioned side doors by which I used to let myself into the old kitchen. Admittedly, as I was racing down to the scene, I was cursing Fran Reale (in heaven!) under my breath and asking how she could let this happen??! When I arrived, I saw the Hartford Fire Department trying to preserve what remains of this charming building and City Fare business. It is an experience I will NEVER forget and one that I hope others never have. Current building owners Phyllis Reale and Teresa Preziosi were SO incredibly brave and hopeful throughout that their kitchen and building may be saved so they could one day operate there again.
It really was something to watch firefighters try to put out stubborn flames and smoke, in the pouring rain no less. But Lt. Mario Oquendo was there because Special Services got involved and of course, who else came onto the scene and was incredibly helpful but State Rep Angel Arce. We all see Mario and Angel at monthly MARG meetings, but it was so impressive to see them both in action!! It was also impressive to watch HFD working together and trying to do their best to put out the fire. Fire Marshal Lt. Sherriff was not only compassionate but extremely helpful and excellent in his public capacity. He explained very technical fire terminology and his role in the process in plain English that all present could understand. He conducted an exterior tour and methodically explained step-by-step what he thought had happened to cause the fire and how it traveled. David Viens, Building Inspector from Licenses & Inspections, was very professional and kind and stayed around to the very end, trying to explain what happens in a fire-damaged building and when and what he and his department do. With fire personnel, he went in and salvaged important business and insurance records. Mario too, went back into the building and saved a laptop and storage drive with other business records. There was a young police officer manning the sidewalk who was also very kind and professional. And true kudos to the young woman who was driving by and saw the fire -- she stopped and called it in. Mario Oquendo will try to obtain her name from fire dispatch. This AM after getting a few hours sleep, I was so gratified to see such a prompt response to my request for help from both Julio Mendoza of SAMA and Fernando Rosa of HEDCO. Both knew Fran Reale for years and helped Philly and Teresa obtain the loan to purchase the building after her death.
In short, it DOES matter "who" you know in our wonderful Hartford community and regardless of our bad politics and countless media stories, Hartford does have some fine staff and related resources who support our City, our businesses, our residents.
I hope those who know Philly, Teresa, Gary and Ricky will reach out to them via email, text, phone . . . whatever. Angel Arce is already inquiring with SAMA and Trinity College to determine the availability of commercial kitchens in the area. I was thinking the new Swift Factory kitchens?? Anyone else have an idea or can post on their FaceBook page to learn of one available?? The holidays are City Fare's busiest and most profitable times of the year.
Thanks all for reading,