After Overnight Fire Following Pandemic Shutdown And Looting Earlier This Year, Bronzeville Beauty Supply Store Owner Says He Might Be Done

CHICAGO (CBS) — A fire broke out overnight Saturday into Sunday off 47th Street and Indiana Avenue in Bronzeville.

No one was injured in the fire, and police late Sunday were still trying to determine the cause. But as CBS 2’s Marissa Parra reported, the owner of one business that was damaged in the fire said his store may never return to normal.

The fire affected several different businesses to varying degrees. The damage seemed most severe at a tax service business, but smoke damage spread to the stores on either side of it.

It all serves as a reminder that for people like Wig Town Beauty Supply owner Jaewoo “Jay” Kim, this was not just a business or a livelihood. It was a dream.

Before you can see the damage at the site of the fire, you can smell it – the unmistakable stench of fumes and burnt plastic.

“It was smoke all over the place, fire trucks,” Kim said.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, Kim’s online security system showed him swirls of smoke dancing through the aisles of his business. He started that business from the ground up 16 years ago.

Kim came from South Korea to chase the so-called American dream. In 2020, it is feeling like more of a nightmare.

“This is like a movie where you watch an entire life in one year,” Kim said.

First was the shutdown for the COVID-19 pandemic, and then came the looting at the end of May.

Now, there was this fire overnight.

“Right now, I’m shocked,” Kim said. “I don’t know.”

After Wig Town Beauty Supply, 126 E. 47th St., was cleaned out by looters during civil unrest on May 31, it took Kim two months to restock – setting him back $150,000.

Now, just six months later, he has to do it all over again.

Beyond parts of the ceiling that have caved in, and beyond the water damage, is a type of damage that’s a little harder to see unless you really look for it – smoke damage and a thin layer of soot on every single product.

The bottles, the makeup, and the wigs are ruined. They cannot be saved.

“You cannot wipe down this kind of smoke damage, especially this heavy smoke damage,” Kim said. “The wigs and the clothing – no saving. We got to trash everything.”

Under the hazy fog of shock, the business owner put up a stoic front as he said this time, the doors might not reopen.

“Honest with you, I’m not sure I can come back from this,” Kim said.

Kim said he has insurance. But insurance does not cover everything, and rates go up after every incident.

Chicago Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were spotted at the scene, pouring over video and talking to people on the street and inside nearby businesses.

The Fire Department cannot confirm the cause, but they have not ruled out arson.

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