West Side Market produce vendors allowed to open Friday, many won't to show support

Cause of fire may be electrical

CLEVELAND - Parts of Cleveland's historic West Side Market could open on Friday after Wednesday's early morning fire.

The fire started at about 2:20 p.m. Wednesday at the building on West 25th Street, but no one was injured. Sebastian's and Foster's, two meat stands inside, suffered most of the damage. On Thursday, fire officials said the fire may have been caused by electrical problems.

The produce vendors, which are housed in a separate building, will be allowed to open at 7 a.m. Friday, but most have decided to stay closed as a sign of solidarity to their fellow tenants. The rest of the market is closed until further notice.

Other vendors met with Cleveland fire and city officials on Thursday to assess the damage to their stands.

"As I looked over toward the south end, there really didn't seem to be as bad. But understanding that smoke traveled everywhere," said vendor Jim Frick.

"The main thing is to get those walls and all the counters everything cleaned of the soot so the health department says it's OK to go back in there. It's extremely filthy," said vendor Rick Calabrese.

Members of the media were also permitted to tour the damage. NewsChannel5's Paul Kiska said there is heavy smoke damage to the high ceiling of the market's main building.

Since the West Side Market is owned by the city of Cleveland and vendors pay rent for their locations, many have asked for reduction. The city said they will look into that issue.

According to the city of Cleveland, they are also working with three companies for cleaning estimates.

"They will be back here tomorrow morning to start the clean up process. They will have to remove personal belongings out of their stands and then we will have a disposal process for the removal of any of the product that cannot be sold," said Maureen Harper, city of Cleveland spokesperson.

The Cleveland Department of Public Health is overseeing the clean-up while vendors take an inventory of their lost goods for insurance purposes. Everything from counters, coolers and walls have to be thoroughly cleaned before the market can open.

Meanwhile, business owners in Ohio City still depend on the market, for customers and supplies.

"That's the heart of the neighborhood. Without the market, we probably wouldn't be here," said Jeff Pizzuli, owner of Ohio City Burrito. Pizzuli said he uses produce and hot sauce from the West Side Market in his restaurant, and appreciates having it all right across the street.

"It's one of the busiest weekends at the West Side Market and it's one of the busiest weekends of the year. Everybody goes there, buys their meats, their snacks, their pastries. Anything that you could possibly think of that's going to be for their Super Bowl extravaganza," said owner of Orale Ann Madansky.

Assistant fire chief Brent Collins said he believes the fire was accidental and it is not suspicious.

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