Biz owner seeking support following fire

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Business owners continue to pick up the pieces following Saturday’s devastating fire at the Sherwood Centre strip mall.

The reality is setting in for KFC, Little Caesars, K-Lee Boutique, Chopped Leaf, Dr. Bernstein Clinic and Great Clips; the six businesses that burned to the ground just off Wye Road on Saturday, April 24.

The week has been a blur of juggling insurance calls and figuring out next steps in how to rebuild for Little Caesars’ franchise owner Ravi Prakash Singh.

“We couldn’t believe that something like this could happen,” Singh said, adding a friend notified him of the fire at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday. “We rushed to the strip mall to see that everything was gone overnight.”

The second Little Caesars location in Sherwood Park had only been in business for a year and a half, following its grand opening in late November 2019.

Strathcona County RCMP has laid charges in relation to the fire that ripped through six businesses off Wye Road — KFC, Little Caesars, Klee Boutique, Chopped Leaf, Dr. Bernstein Clinic and Great Clip — during the early morning hours of Saturday, April 24. Lindsay Morey/News Staff
Strathcona County RCMP has laid charges in relation to the fire that ripped through six businesses off Wye Road — KFC, Little Caesars, Klee Boutique, Chopped Leaf, Dr. Bernstein Clinic and Great Clip — during the early morning hours of Saturday, April 24. Lindsay Morey/News Staff

Local police laid charges against Matthew Benjamin Flanagan, 32, of no fixed address, with intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire and mischief over $5,000. He appeared for a bail hearing in Sherwood Park Provincial Court on Wednesday, April 28.

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“I’m seriously frustrated with the county. If there are people who are reckless like this and they’re roaming inside of the county, who is responsible for them?” asked Singh.

The county’s Economic Development and Tourism staff did reach out to the business owner, but Singh wanted the mayor to be more engaged with the affected businesses.

Mayor Rod Frank called the fire “a terrible situation” during his Facebook Live weekly address on Wednesday and thanked local fire crews for their efforts to contain the fire and to ensure no one was injured.

“Six businesses went up in flames, many of them are suffering, some of them have GoFundMe campaigns,” said the mayor.

Singh set up a GoFundMe page to help raise $15,000 this week, however, he received backlash when posting on the Fort Sask Informed Facebook group because people said support should not be provided to corporate businesses. He explained to The News that he’s a franchisee owner and he hopes the community will support him such as it has with other impacted businesses like K-Lee Boutique. He estimates total damages from the fire are about $600,000.

“The brand is corporate, but it’s owned by me. Little Caesars has nothing to do with it other than giving me the name to put in front of the store,” Singh said. “I’m a local guy. I live with you guys. I also have two kids. Last week, I gave out free food to the community… Everyone needs equal support.”

A rear view of the damage on the back of the six businesses. Lindsay Morey/News Staff
A rear view of the damage on the back of the six businesses. Lindsay Morey/News Staff

Eight employees at Little Caesars were impacted by the fire. Some of those have been given shifts at Singh’s other restaurants in the Fort at Marble Slab, Pita Pit, and Little Caesars.

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“They are jobless and we have less income coming it. It’s challenging. It’s definitely challenging,” the business owner said. “First of all, we were trying to recover from COVID and then this happened… It’s so uncertain right now.”

To support Singh, it’s suggested residents purchase meals from the aforementioned eateries in Fort Saskatchewan which Singh also operates, or to donate towards the GoFundMe page (Help Little Caesars Sherwood Park).

Once insurance claims are finalized, Singh plans to rebuild a location in the Park.

First Capital, the building management company for the strip mall, has not yet indicated if or when it will rebuild the structure.

lmorey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/LindsayDMorey

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