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Skokie Deli Plans To Reopen ‘Better And Stronger’ After Fire

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Kaufman's Bakery & Delicatessen in Skokie was forced to close after a fire on Nov. 6, 2011, damaged the popular deli. (Credit: Steve Miller, WBBM)

Kaufman’s Bakery & Delicatessen in Skokie was forced to close after a fire on Nov. 6, 2011, damaged the popular deli. (Credit: Steve Miller, WBBM)

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SKOKIE, Ill. (CBS) — It may be a while before a landmark Skokie deli and bakery reopens after a devastating fire over the weekend.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports, the fire broke out around 2 a.m. Sunday at Kaufman’s Bagel & Delicatessen, at 4905 Dempster St. in Skokie.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

Ken and Dan Hechtman, owners of Ken’s Diner down the street from Kaufman’s, stopped by the fire-damaged deli on Sunday.

“This has been here forever and ever,” Ken Hechtman said. “When I was growing up as a kid, this place was here.”

Laura Friedlander also came to the deli as a youngster. She rode her bicycle to Kaufman’s early Sunday morning after the fire.

“When I left, my daughter said, ‘You’re going to Kaufman’s, right?’ and I said yes,” Friedlander said. “So I’m going to have some very disappointed children.”

The deli opened was opened in 1955 by Holocaust survivor Maury Kaufman. As Skokie Fire crews arrived to calm the blaze they knew they were fighting to save a landmark.

At the time of the fire, workers were preparing for the Sunday morning rush

“They tried to put the fire out themselves. They pulled extinguishers off the walls. When they couldn’t do it themselves, they called the Skokie Fire Department,” said owner Bette Dworkin.

But by daybreak Sunday, the windows outside were boarded up, and the interior was filled with broken glass and overturned chairs.

The fire also ruined nearly 600 salamis that were curing at the deli. They were to have been charitable donations for troops serving in Afghanistan.

“We can’t send them now because they have been exposed to the fire,” Dworkin said. “The health department told us that we can’t take any chances, so unfortunately they’re going to have to be destroyed.”

Customer after customer was asking what happened on Sunday morning. Dworkin said some were getting out of their cars crying.

“It’s just horrible. I’ve been coming here about 30 years,” said customer Loren Kabb. “It’s really one of the best places in Skokie.”

Dworkin said Kaufman’s will be back “better and stronger” and she hopes to reopen in less than a month. She said a builder who’s looked at the building told her the damage is not as bad as it looks.

“The equipment all seems to be fine. We’ll have to replace all the electrical and then have everything checked out,” she said. “We’re reopening and we’re reopening, needless to say, as fast as we humanly can.”

Customers did come back to Kaufman’s after a salmonella outbreak in the mid-1980s that made 250 people sick. Dworkin says she hopes customers will come back again after this setback too.

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