NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - A massive fire destroyed a row of stores in Queens, tearing through the heart and soul of a community.
The block of business in the neighborhood of Kew Gardens, Queens served the community for decades.
In just a few hours, everything was gone -- the barbershop, the bakery, convenience store, and more than a dozen business destroyed by the overnight fire.
The searing five alarm fire spread across a common roof and doomed the row of businesses down below.
The flames and thick smoke engulfed a total of 14 shops. It took nearly 6 hours to tame the fierce inferno. Three of the 200 responding firefighters suffered minor injuries.
By morning, street sweepers cleared some of the debris, but there was no sweeping away the destruction.
"There is only one grouping of stores in this community. This is it. It's a shame. 14 stores down the tubes,” said one resident.
"We've been here forever. We spent 46 years here,” said John Delvgo.
John Delgvo grew up in this area near Vleigh Place, just east of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
"When you think of this neighborhood, you thought of this strip,” he said, "Look at it. It’s going to be a sour spot for this neighborhood. We’re really going to miss this."
The connected row of stores in the heavily orthodox community was mostly vacant because of the Sabbath.
With the buildings condemned, shop owners are left to pick through a melted mess of metal -- the fragments of their livelihood.
"These are all mom and pop stores. Hopefully they’ll rebuild,” said one resident.
Many neighbors gathered on the block and wondered what sparked the blaze -- the cause still under investigation.
"Especially today -- So close to the holidays. That's a shame,” said a bystander.
That's not how this year was supposed to end.