The owner of Littlejohn's Deli said he was at his second store, which is about to open at the Shops at Stonefield, when he got a call from his employee about a fire.
"I was actually at our new store taking care of another fire, figuratively not literally, and I said 'I'm glad we're able to fix this, I'm going to have a great weekend' and then my phone rang," Chris Strong said, shaking his head. "The coincidence of it was tremendous and scary."
The fire started in the basement of iconic sandwich shop around 2:30 Friday afternoon. Several crews from the Charlottesville Fire Department and one additional truck from Albemarle County responded to the call. While crews put out the blaze, nearby businesses were evacuated and University Avenue was closed off.
"It's heavy pedestrian traffic area and it's a main thoroughfare through the city of Charlottesville," said Charlottesville Battalion Chief Rich Jones. "It makes it a little tricky for us."
Fire crews stayed on the scene for several hours. They took an ax to part of the building to make certain no embers remained. Officials say the location of the blaze made it more difficult to put out.
"It's an older building and the fact that it was in the corner of the building made for tight working space," said Charlottesville Battalion Chief Britt Grimm.
The clock was ticking for Strong, who said Fridays are his busiest night.
"We've got crews on standby for clean up, water removal, carpet, electricians," Strong said. " I can handle uncertainty with prayer. I've said my prayers. I hope the community of Charlottesville can say prayers for us too please."
Both a health inspector and building inspector had to sign off before Littlejohn's could reopen. Employees say the shop will reopen at 11:00 PM Friday night.
UPDATE: 7:15 PM
A basement fire at Littlejohn's Deli on The Corner caused fire crews to close University Avenue Friday afternoon for several hours. No one was injured but many of the surrounding businesses were evacuated as a precaution. The flames were contained to the basement, but electricity was shut off for the building, causing the owner of Littlejohn's to worry about his food supply going bad.
Chris Strong told CBS19's Rachel Ryan that Fridays are his busiest night of the week at the sandwich shop and he is hoping to reopen for business later this evening. Fire Battalion Chief Britt Grimm said the scene had been cleared by fire crews, but the health inspector and building inspector still had to give the okay before opening the building back up.
The cause of the fire is unknown and the extent of damages has not been determined.
Feb. 7, 2014
The Charlottesville Fire Department responds to a fire at Littlejohn's New York Deli on The Corner.
Shortly after 2:00 p.m. on Friday, crews closed down University Avenue so that firefighters could work on the restaurant.
This is a developing story.
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