Alexandria, VA – Markos Panas and Noelie Rickey were in bed when they got the news that there was a fire at the Belle View Shopping Center.
The owners of Bread & Water Co. at 1513 Belle View Blvd. raced to the scene and found the shopping center parking lot completely full and brightly lit by the flashing of emergency vehicles, and by the fire that engulfed two neighboring businesses. Even though their business was saved, the fire shut down the bakery for two weeks, costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost inventory and revenue. Panas and Rickey will recoup their losses with their insurance company, and now the couple are thankful to still be in business.
“It’s remarkable how it works things into perspective,” Panas told The Zebra. “Thank God we still have it, that we still have this chance, that we can continue on this path, that we have a meaningful reason to wake up every day.”
The six-alarm fire started just before midnight on Oct. 21, and is still under investigation. It started in the Japanese restaurant Yido Ramen & Sushi, which recently opened for business just days before. The fire caused nearly $6 million in damages, and destroyed the neighboring Belle View Cleaners and forced an indefinite shutdown of GOLFTEC Alexandria.
“We are deeply saddened for everyone who has been affected by this misfortune and will work diligently with our insurance provider to address all matters,” reads a note posted outside Belle Haven Cleaners.
Panas stayed at the scene until about 4 a.m., and when it was clear that the fire was completely extinguished, went home and took a shower and then went straight back to work. The Bread & Water locations at the Torpedo Factory and Pentagon Row also had to be shut down, as the Belle View location acts as a commissary for the company. Everything is baked there, and the business is operating 24 hours a day. On a busy Friday night, the bakery will produce upward of 7,000 individual pieces of bread and pastry, which are then distributed to three area farmers’ markets, and their brick and mortar locations.
Panas and Rickey opened the bakery in 2013, and now employ 47 full and part-time employees.
“My biggest fear was my staff. We work really hard to get and keep people, but these are people that are making, you know, $15 to $16 an hour, they can’t afford to go without a job,” Rickey said. “It’s one of those things that you always have in the back of your mind that happens, but, you know, you’ve got a life to lead and a business to run and you don’t think about it that much.”
Bread & Water opened with a limited menu, freshly painted walls, and a fresh perspective.
“It’s going to be our biggest Thanksgiving ever,” Panas said. “The people around here have been so supportive, and the genuine care and support that we have received from the community has been overwhelming, and it has touched us deeply. It’s not like anything I’ve ever experienced before.”