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Donors step in to help businesses, residents displaced by Oak Park fire

That fire on Oak Park’s busy Lake Street corridor caused extensive damage to the building that housed Polished Nail Salon and Day Spa as well as Delia’s Kitchen. Four upstairs apartments also were severely damaged.

Polished Nails and Day Spa, as well as the restaurant next door, Delia’s Kitchen, were severely damaged by a fire earlier this week in Oak Park.
Polished Nails and Day Spa, as well as the restaurant next door, Delia’s Kitchen, were severely damaged by a fire earlier this week in Oak Park.
Sun-Times

Nina McCaffrey got a phone call from one of her employees Tuesday morning about a small fire in the back of the building where she has operated Polished Nails and Day Spa in Oak Park for the past 14 years.

“I got there just five minutes after that call and the flames was already up,” McCaffrey said. “I stood outside for hours watching the firefighters try to put the fire out. I just kept thinking about all the water that was showering the building.”

That extra-alarm fire on Oak Park’s busy Lake Street corridor caused extensive damage to the building that housed McCaffrey’s salon and Delia’s Kitchen, a restaurant on the first floor. Four upstairs apartments also were severely damaged.

McCaffrey said her business sustained $100,000 in damage; she lost electric spa chairs, tables, manicure lights and and various products. Insurance will cover up to half those losses — but the biggest loss, she said, will be for her employees, who will be without a job in the middle of a busy holiday season.

“All my staff have been working with me for over 10 years,” McCaffrey said. “I can’t even think what they’re going to do. This is the season when they could expect extra income because we are so busy and people generally tip more. My biggest concern is, how can I help my staff during this time and keep them from finding employment elsewhere?”

McCaffrey’s son launched a GoFundMe to help the salon recover from its damages while also helping staff members and their families during this difficult time. They’ve been able to raise nearly $5,000 of their $10,000 goal in just two days.

McCaffrey said it is unlikely she reopens at the same location. Repairs would take more than a year, she said. She wants to re-open as quickly as she can, and hopes to find another spot on Oak Park’s busy Lake Street.

A fire that started Tuesday morning, Nov. 23, 2021 in the building that housed two businesses and four apartments in Oak Park and also damaged other nearby structures.
A fire Tuesday morning on Lake Street in Oak Park in the building that housed a restaurant and nail salon caused severe damage to those two businesses as well as four upstairs apartments.
Mark Capapas/Sun-Times

“I am just so thankful to my clients, friends and the community of Oak Park who has stood by us during this time,” McCaffrey said. “I would love to continue serving this community and hopefully we can get enough help.”

As McCaffrey was just pulling up to the fire around 9:30 a.m., Brianna Bailey was asleep in her third-floor apartment. She woke to the sound of a faint fire alarm in her neighbor’s apartment when she began smelling what she described as burning plastic.

She thought her brother was cooking and had burned something, but he was still sleeping.

“When I woke him up, he immediately jumped off the couch and said ‘That’s smoke.’”

Bailey said they heard the crackling of wood, like a bonfire. “You just heard the roaring of the fire and we opened the window to let some air in but within like 30 seconds smoke was already in my nose and hair,” Bailey said.

“I was ready to leap out of my bedroom window, onto the movie theater’s roof,” she said, referring to the nearby Lake Theatre.

“It was just a surreal feeling like it doesn’t feel like I lived it but I was in some sort of video game.”

Bailey said she put on whatever she could and grabbed her purse, so she had “some form of identification” with her. Her brother was never able to even put on a pair of shoes.

The siblings lost nearly everything they owned. Her brother, who has his own apartment, would sleep over time to time and lost his work clothes, shoes and some important electronics.

Bailey, a freelance makeup artist, also lost much of her equipment and two MacBooks.

“It’s been such a blessing to have people donate and just check in on me and has kind of exceeded my expectations,” Bailey said.

“I am just genuinely thankful for so much because there isn’t a textbook on how to live your life after a fire took everything from you. We are just trying.”

A GoFundMe has been started for Bailey to help cover some of the damages; they have raised $2,700 out of a $5,000 goal as of late Friday afternoon.

A GoFundMe page created for Delia’s Kitchen has raised $22,254 toward a $25,000 goal.

There were no immediate reports of injuries from the fire at Delia’s Kitchen, 1034 Lake St. in Oak Park, though some buildings were evacuated and roads were closed.
Oak Park firefighters responded to an extra-alarm fire on Lake Street Tuesday morning.
Manny Ramos/Sun-Times