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November 10, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Greenwood, Everett: fires devastate restaurant community

Residents and business-folk in Greenwood are reeling from a devastating string of arsons in which the restaurant community has been particularly hard hit. On October 23, a fire set at the Green Bean Coffee House near 85th and Greenwood also destroyed the adjacent Szechuan Bistro, C.C. Teriyaki and Pho Tic Tac. Three more fires set late Sunday and early Monday have the neighborhood unnerved. The latest arson extended to Greenwood’s popular Mediterranean bistro and take-out shop Olive You, which suffered $20,000 in smoke- and fire-related damage. And on top of that came Monday’s news of the total destruction of Emory’s Lake House on Silver Lake in Everett after an early-morning fire. That news hit me on both a professional and personal level.

Emory’s Lake House, before the fire. [Seattle Times/Ellen Banner]

The last time I talked to my friend Mark Wall, he was entertaining a house full of guests at a housewarming brunch a few weeks ago at his new home in Lynnwood. Today he — and approximately 50 other employees at Emory’s Lake House — are mourning the loss of their workplace, gutted by fire Monday morning. Mark had worked there for a dozen years.

He was awakened at 5 a.m. Monday by a friend who’d heard about the fire on the news, and like many of his co-workers, made a beeline for Emory’s. “We all stood out in the rain and watched it burn. It was pretty sickening and we all cried a lot.” The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Emory’s on Monday, after 40 firefighters were called to the scene. [Seattle Times/Mike Siegel]

Mark is a retired computer programmer who went to work for his friend (and former Mukilteo mayor) Emory Cole part-time. He liked working at the restaurant so much, he never left. Emory and his employees “were like a family,” Mark told me this morning after a night in which he got little sleep. “It was owned by one person, we all knew each other very well, and we liked each other a lot.”

Today the staff is facing what would have likely been a busy holiday season with the prospect of extended unemployment. “Emory built the restaurant, and yesterday he mentioned he was going to rebuild.” But nothing’s certain, Mark said, noting he expects to be putting together a resume this week. “They told us to apply for unemployment [compensation] right away, and everyone’s been texting and Facebooking and calling each other and trying to help each other out.”

To them — and to the the owners and employees of the many businesses across our community that have suffered fire-related sorrows — I extend my condolences.

While some Greenwood businesses will be up and running in new locations soon, the community continues to keep alert and will meet with police and fire officials tonight at 7 p.m. at an open meeting held at the Fellowship Hall at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church.

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