They knew each other in passing, as customers, as neighbors, linked only by the fact that their businesses shared the same few blocks of the East Village in Manhattan.
But on Thursday, as about a dozen owners of restaurants, clothing shops, dry-goods stores and other establishments either demolished, damaged or left financially crippled in the aftermath of the gas explosion that leveled three buildings on Second Avenue last month met, they shared something else: a desire to rebuild.
“We’re alive,” said Roop Bring, the owner of Sam’s Deli, a bodega that operated for decades on the ground floor of 123 Second Avenue in Manhattan before being destroyed as a result of the explosion, which, according to the authorities, erupted in the basement next door, at 121 Second Avenue. “That’s what important.”
Gathered in a corner at Café Mocha, across Second Avenue from the crater created by the blast, other local business owners nodded in agreement.
Some, like Mr. Bring, had lost their businesses in the collapse that followed the blast and ensuing fire. Tarun Kundu’s nearly 20-year-old copy shop, tucked around the corner, at 45 East 7th Street, was crushed when the building it occupied, 119 Second Avenue, came toppling down.
“I have nothing, in my store is everything,” said Mr. Kundu, a Bangladeshi immigrant who has three daughters and lives in Woodside, Queens.
Enz’s, a store selling rockabilly-style clothing that opened in 1974 and was popular with the rock legends who prowled the East Village, is still standing, its exterior singed and dirty next to where backhoes continue to claw at the rubble.
Enz’s proprietor, Mariann Marlowe, said she had spent the days after the explosion trying to salvage what she could from the damaged store, one of the few in the neighborhood that remained closed. She said she was particularly intent on rescuing mannequins she had brought back from London in the 1980s, flying with them on her lap in the plane.
Telling the group how Mr. Bring had run into her store in the moments after the blast and commanded her to flee as the shop filled with smoke, she became too overcome to speak.
“This is part of East Village history,” Ms. Marlow said to the group later. “Some people might say, ‘She is being hysterical over a mannequin.’ But it’s my life, it’s not just clothes,” she added. “It’s something I’ve created.”
For the most part, the business owners seemed determined not to dwell on the past. Some, including Ms. Marlowe, had already begun to move forward: With the help of Made in Lower East Side, an organization that helps create “pop-up” shops, she had set up for the week at 103 Allen Street.
Omer Shorshi, an owner of Pommes Frites, the Belgian-style French fry shop that shared a wall with Sam’s Deli before the explosion, said he was looking for a new location, though the neighborhood’s steep rents left him unsure about whether he could afford to be there anymore.
Chas Bring, left, and his father, Roop Bring, owner of Sam’s Deli.
Several restaurants in the area have been unable to open, because they have no gas. A spokeswoman for Consolidated Edison said on Thursday that the utility was prepared to restore gas service to the affected buildings once the required inspections and tests were completed.
Fawzy Abdelwahed, the owner of B & H, a 73-year-old kosher restaurant at 127 Second Avenue, said he was paying his employees, though they had not been able to work since the explosion and fire. A website created to raise money for the shop had collected nearly $5,000 by Thursday.
The business owners shared tips on how to set up similar websites. Also on hand were several community activists who listened and offered advice. One initiative that came up, promoted by the group #SaveNYC, calls on people to shop at the affected businesses. For example, a “cash mob” is being urged to convene at noon on Saturday at Gem Spa, a venerable East Village shop that sells, among other things, old-fashioned egg creams.
For those who lost everything, like Chas Bring, Roop Bring’s son, there is nothing to gain from such an effort. The younger Mr. Bring said he would juggle shifts at Sam’s Deli with his brother when they were not in class at Hunter College, but he could do little at the meeting but listen.
“My brother and I used to fight over who would have to go to work that day,” he said. “Now this happened, and I wish I could go.”
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