The fire broke out around 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Dollar Discount store at Front and York streets.
"It was pretty bad. The flames were pretty high," said Dave Bratten.
"We walked up and it was coming from two of the buildings and it just started spreading and got heavier and heavier," said Tina Stankiewicz.
Two businesses suffered major fire damage and a third, Kang's Jewelry, suffered smoke and water damage.
"I'm really frustrated about this," said Jae Ma.
Visibly upset, the owner's son waited to get the okay to go inside and retrieve inventory, including sentimental jewelry dropped off for repair.
"He's worried about customers and things he made for customers," said Ma.
A vacant building also suffered smoke damage.
One of the businesses with the bulk of the smoke damage did not have an alarm or sprinkler system.
Firefighters say the two alarm blaze was stubborn and they had numerous obstacles.
"Even in the front, they had gates to we had to make forcible entry with cutting tools. Then the elevated lines presented a hazard. We had to have PECO come in and shut off the power," said Deputy Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer.
The fire was brought under control around 7:30 p.m. Fortunately no injuries were reported.
The fire also forced several other businesses to close early but they are set to reopen as normal on Friday.
Fire officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.