- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

Jenny Glasgow stood yesterday next to a table piled with assorted pastries outside the historic Eastern Market building destroyed last week in a three-alarm fire.

Ms. Glasgow, who owns the Fine Sweet Shop, is among four of the market’s 14 merchants who set up shop on the street alongside the Capitol Hill neighborhood’s regular outdoor vendors.

“I miss being inside,” she said. “I miss my shop. I miss my stand. I miss my employees.”

Some of her employees stood behind the white-draped table, handing out wrapped danishes and sorting change in a small, metal lockbox.

Notably absent from Ms. Glasgow’s makeshift shop were the usual pies, cakes, deli sandwiches, coffee and ice cream she sold from inside the 134-year-old building in the 200 block of Seventh Street Southeast.

It’s tough getting used to the limitations of an outdoor stand with no electricity or refrigeration, said Ms. Glasgow, who has owned the sweet shop for 12 years.

She added that she’s fortunate to be able to sell anything outside, unlike the merchants who sell seafood, poultry and other meat.

“They didn’t have this option,” Ms. Glasgow said. “I’m glad I did.”

D.C. fire officials yesterday opened the entrance to the government-owned building’s South Hall, which was gutted in the blaze, so the public could view the damages — estimated between $5 million and $10 million. The public also can view the inside of the building today.

A line of people spilled out of the front doors and onto the sidewalk as somber onlookers snapped photos of the charred space.

“They will rebuild,” Sgt. Thomas G. Riddick of the D.C. fire department said to one resident. “It’ll take a little time, but it’ll be better than ever.”

Officials plan to complete repairs within 18 months, Sgt. Riddick said.

Fire officials also distributed smoke alarms and fire-safety literature.

Shoppers Sig and Susan Cohen were among the people who looked inside to see what was left after the fire, which investigators said was caused by an electrical short circuit.

“It’s the soul of Capitol Hill,” Mr. Cohen said. “It’s just tragic.”

Mrs. Cohen just shook her head.

“When you see the people’s faces when they come out, it’s like a viewing,” she said.

One positive thing that has emerged from the tragedy is a renewed sense of community, Mr. Cohen said.

“It’s amazing how the community has come together,” he said.

The Capitol Hill Community Foundation has raised $130,000 to assist merchants and their employees while the market is rebuilt, said Gary Peterson, chairman of the foundation’s Eastern Market fundraising committee.

“We can’t imagine a restored market without those people back,” Mr. Peterson said.

The foundation set up a stand yesterday so people could donate to the fund. Donations also are being accepted online and by mail. More information is available on the Web at capitolhillcommunityfoundation.org.

The foundation will be on hand to collect money today during the annual Market Day fundraiser for Friendship House, a Capitol Hill community-service organization. The fundraiser, which will feature food, games, health screenings and other activities, will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Seventh Street Southeast from South Carolina Avenue to North Carolina Avenue.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has proposed using “supplemental revenue” to assist displaced merchants and help them find a temporary structure during the rebuilding process.

A community meeting will be held tomorrow night at 7:30 at Lemon G. Hine Junior High School on Eighth Street Southeast to discuss potential temporary locations.

Merchants have said they want to relocate temporarily to the junior high school, Mr. Peterson said.

It’s close to the existing structure, and it doesn’t impede traffic, Ms. Glasgow said.

“We’ll still be a presence here,” she said.

Mr. Fenty strolled through the market yesterday afternoon, chatting with vendors and shoppers.

“We never wanted this to happen, but tough situations happen in life, and how communities respond … is what really sometimes makes or breaks communities,” he said. “This community has responded greatly.”

At the Bowers Fancy Dairy Products stand, customers lined up to check in on the owners and employees of the 43-year-old business, which was displaced by the fire.

Employees greeted nearly ever customer by name: “Hello, Roberta. Hello, David.”

“What’s going to happen to you, Jack?” one customer asked a white-haired man behind the table. “You’re not going anywhere, are you?”

Owner Ray Bowers drove to a farm in Delaware at 5:30 yesterday morning to purchase heavy cream that’s usually shipped. The merchant’s usual 250 selections of cheese were narrowed down to just two: yellow or white cheddar.

“Do you have any havarti?” a female customer asked.

“Not yet,” an employee replied. “Hang in there.”

“No — you hang in there,” the customer said with a smile.

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