CHICAGO (CBS) — Demolition of an Elmhurst bridal shop began Friday evening after it was destroyed by a fire.
Firefighters were still dousing hot spots Friday morning at VIP Occasions, 351 York Rd., nearly 18 hours after the fire started. The dress shop had been in business for more than 25 years.
Elmhurst firefighters said the fire started around 1:30 p.m. Thursday. By 2:30 p.m., much of the business had been destroyed, and it took crews more than five hours to get it under control.
A massive plume of gray smoke could be seen from miles away as firefighters doused the building with water. In all, more than 80 firefighters from Elmhurst and many surrounding towns helped extinguish the blaze. Crews remained on the scene overnight, to monitor hot spots and keep the fire from flaring up again, after the roof collapsed.
“During the collapse of the building, that pancaked, and as a result we had a lot of trapped and hidden fire that kept fire companies on the scene all night long,” Elmhurst Fire Chief Tom Freeman said.
Firefighters said the loss of the building and what was inside VIP Occasions totaled $1.5 million.
Freeman said the large amount of inventory in the gown shop made the largest fire in recent Elmhurst history even harder to beat back.
“We had a lot, if not an inordinate amount of combustibles that were in the building that contributed internally to the amount of fire,” he said.
Sisters Nicole Samardzija and Natalie Krstev opened the salon in 1991. They have said they will rebuild in the future, and vowed to help customers impacted by the devastating blaze. The owners said they would be contacting their dress designers on Friday to provide them with a temporary shipping address for special orders. Dresses damaged or destroyed in the fire will be given top priority.
The owners also said they will set up a temporary shop down the street at their late father’s medical building as soon as the area is secure. If you have a dress or gown at VIP Occasions, they have set up a hotline you can call: 630-833-GOWN (630-833-4696).
Two other north suburban bridal shops also have offered to help VIP Occasions who have lost dresses in the fire. Complete Bridal in East Dundee said VIP customers who can present proof they lost a dress in the fire, along with a picture of what the dress looked like, Complete Bridal will provide a free gown, charging only the cost of alterations.
Volles Bridal & Boutique in Lake Zurich also said VIP customers who lost a dress in the fire can go to the Volles website to make an appointment for help.
Julie Miller Sheehan works across the street from the business she called one of the cornerstones of Elmhurst.
She watched as windows exploded, and mannequins tumbled onto the sidewalk. While the blaze was burning, Miller Sheehan watched in horror as one of the owners approached.
“A policeman stopped her, and said ‘No, you can’t go down there,’ and she said, ‘No, that’s my shop! That’s my shop!’ So he let her through. I felt very sad for her,” she said.
Miller Sheehan’s wedding dress and the gowns her wedding party wore in her Loire Valley nuptials 10 years ago were from VIP Occasions. Knowing what that day meant to her she made a decision Thursday night to help out a woman whose wedding dress likely burned in the fire.
“Our hearts go out to all of the brides, and bridesmaids, and anyone who had a dress there. I went to my husband last night, and I said, ‘I want to donate my wedding dress. Is that okay with you?’ He said yes,” she said.
The cause of the fire is undetermined, but authorities believe it began on the roof.
Firefighters said it’s common for arson crews to collect evidence after a blaze of this magnitude. Even though foul play is not suspected at this time, officials said they should have results in about a week.