One of the seeds on the budding Baltimore Ave. commercial corridor suffered a tragic end on the afternoon of Christmas Eve when Elena’s Soul burnt down just shy of 50th and Baltimore in West Philadelphia.

In 2009

Recent shot

The hope is its neighboring businesses, Gary’s Nails and the Cedar Park Café, can survive the structural stress created by the demolition of Elena’s, which was declared unsafe by L&I.  Felled debris during demolition caused severe damage to Gary’s Nails, which itself might also have to be condemned, according to excerpts from a letter written by the owner of Elena’s, published in the West Philly Local (WPL).

Store next door

The fire originated in the kitchen at Elena’s, most likely above the ceilings, according to an initial inspection by the Philadelphia Fire Marshal. Elena’s had no fire code violations and no foul play is suspected, according to the letter.

Algernong Allen III, the owner, expressed his sympathy, pain and concern for the neighboring businesses, their and his staff and the Elena’s community:

My thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies are with the employees, residents and owners, of business and property in the Cedar Park community detrimentally impacted by the fire at Elena’s Soul on Monday December 24th at about 1 p.m. My greatest consolation is that there was no loss of life, or injury … I have great sadness that your special place is gone, and our special place is lost. For this, not only do I feel your pain, but I share it, and understand it.

As for Elena’s, its future, too, remains uncertain. According to the article in the WPL, Allen said it is too early to determine. There are many elements to consider, like liability, insurance and debt.

From a distance

A fundraiser to benefit Elena’s was hosted at the end of the month by IM3Media, the group that hosted Hidden Soul Wednesday’s at the restaurant, an open mic. Allen has asked he not become the subject of charity.

We hope Allen and his crew get the place up and running, but we know more than most how much effort it required and how much money it can cost. Here’s hoping that the restaurant makes a return to Cedar Park. And we also hope the abutting structures can survive. This in an interesting testament to how a business truly affects a community and its neighbors. When one falls, another might be close behind. We’ll see what develops.

–Lou Mancinelli