Old City business begin to re-open following massive fire

OLD CITY (WPVI) -- The work on the 200 block of Chestnut Street in Old City is expected to go on indefinitely. Demolition is turning out to be a painstaking process.

But amidst the road closures and construction equipment, the first restaurant impacted by a massive fire a little over a week ago reopened Wednesday. Now they and other businesses are hoping the customers will come.

"It's hard," said Stephanie Reitano, owner of Capofitto. "The delivery trucks are having a hard time."

Capofitto, known for its gelato and pizza, is located at 233 Chestnut Street, along the block recently ravaged by a large fire. On the morning of February 18th, a massive 4-alarm fire burned down the block.

While Capofitto was structurally unscathed, the entire restaurant reeked of smoke in the aftermath.

"The entire restaurant - literally it was washed - from the ceilings to the walls, floors, every item in here has been washed," said Reitano.

Finally Wednesday, with the final go-ahead from the health department, the restaurant opened for the first time since the fire.

But the block is still cordoned off round-the-clock. Workers in hard hats are clearing neighboring buildings of debris. Reitano is concerned customers won't come.

"I bought some obnoxious balloons and tied them out front, and I bought some ridiculous signs that will cause people to look," said Reitano.

These customers were the first to return to Capofitto today. They wanted to support these businesses impacted by the blaze. Business owners hope others do the same.

"It's sad," said Debbie Blithe-Westhampton. "This should be bustling right now."

"Some businesses are offering incentives to try to draw customers. Capofitto is giving away free gelato to customers who dine there.

"I hope everyone in the city comes to Old City- and to all the businesses, not just us," said Reitano.

As for the work here, demolition is moving at a snail's pace. And investigators still haven't been able to determine the cause or origin of the fire.

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