Popular Cherry Hill restaurant destroyed by fire for 2nd time

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A popular restaurant in Cherry Hill, New Jersey has been destroyed by a fire for the second time. (WPVI)

A popular restaurant in Cherry Hill, New Jersey has been destroyed by a fire for the second time.

The flames broke out inside the Short Hills Deli on Evesham Road just before 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Residents describe the deli as a landmark - one of only two Jewish delis in the area, known for its giant sandwiches and friendly service.

Disaster response crews spent the day cleaning up at the deli.

Michael Robinson, who lives nearby, explains, "Flames were shooting out the top, all the way up to the top. You can see them about three or four stories high."

It took fire crews about 45 minutes to control the blaze. No injuries were reported, but the fire damaged the deli along with two adjoining businesses and an insurance company on the second floor.

Debbie Vespe and her daughter run the clothing store, called Love on a Hanger, which suffered smoke and water damage.

Vespe says, "It came down into all over our clothes, all over the floor, our furniture is all wet. There's drop ceiling all over the place and the floors are already starting to buckle up."

The dry cleaner next door also suffered damage.

This is the second fire at the Short Hills Deli. In 2008 the business was destroyed after a carelessly thrown cigarette ignited a wind-driven fire that ripped through the building.

Tuesday morning's fire is believed to have started on the side of the restaurant, where charred and melted equipment was still visible.

Some regulars who arrived for lunch were shocked to see the popular restaurant closed, and say they hope it reopens soon.

Howard Hacker of Voorhees says, "The best sandwiches, great food. The people are just really nice to come here. Just really great to sit around and talk with people and have a nice lunch."

And we met three Holocaust survivors who meet at the deli regularly. One of the survivors, Helene Bouton, tells us, "We are a few of the survivors left and there are three of us meet here weekly."

Denise Guinup of Voorhees summed up the sentiments of most, saying, "The staff here is the friendliest, like you just become friends, you just become family here. Makes me really sad."

Cherry Hill fire officials have not released the cause of the fire. They say it is still under investigation.

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