WILLIAMSBURG — A fire that broke out early Tuesday morning destroyed a decades-old family grocery store and damaged apartments above the shop, officials and neighbors said.
The blaze, which erupted in the Villa Tapia Grocery Corp at 6:51 a.m., took more than one hour to calm, said FDNY officials, who arrived on the scene at 367 S. 4th St. within a few minutes of the outbreak. The cause is still under investigation, FDNY said.
No injuries were reported and witnesses said the grocery was closed at the time of the incident, but upstairs residents and next-door neighbors were all evacuated from their homes and the first-floor shop appeared "decimated," neighbors said.
A resident who lives across the street from the store said the disturbing early-morning scene jolted her from her slumber just before 7 a.m.
"I was woken up...by a really loud noise, and I looked out the window and saw there were flames coming out window," said the neighbor Sarah Rubinstein, 31. "The deli wasn’t yet open, and the metal gate down. The firefighters were trying to cut gate open."
Rubinstein then saw upstairs residents pouring out of their residences and brought shoes and clothes out to "people standing in their underwear out on the street," she said, noting that the two adjoining buildingswere also temporarily evacuated.
"It looks like the units above the deli aren't going to be able to return for a while," she said.
But the worst destruction was at the Villa Tapia Grocery, where the 23-year-old son of the owner told Rubinstein his family had worked for decades but was not sure if they could return due to damage.
"The deli is totally decimated," she said.