Businesses still struggling a month after gas explosions

Spiro Pappadopoulos in Sauce, before the fire.

In the early hours of Oct. 16 a fire ripped through the three restaurants on Essex Street.

Since then, Daxi, 15 Essex and Sauce Wings and Burgers — all part of the same restaurant group — have been shuttered.

Their owner Spiro Pappadopoulos said as of now the the future of all three restaurants is still up in the air.

The past couple of years have brought a number of challenges for Andolini’s Restaurant group. The Merrimack Valley gas line explosions, the pandemic and staffing problems, but Pappadopoulos said this is something different.

“We were always able to use our creativity to figure out how to work around things, but this is like a dead stop,” Pappadopoulos said. “There’s just no workaround on this one.”

At the moment Pappadopoulos said he is waiting on the insurance investigation, which will decided his next move, and he still is not sure if the building should be repaired or rebuilt.

One option is a complete rehabilitation of the building, which would involve replacing “everything that makes a building besides the walls.” He said the other option would be to completely demolish the building and rebuild it from the ground up.

Whatever he decides, Pappadopoulos said it will push them in a new direction.

“Out of necessity it will need to be different in a lot of ways. If you are going to demo a building down to the studs and put it back together again. It’s not going to be a historical reproduction of what it was before,” he said. “We will see what palette we are given and put together something new.”

“I think I would take it as an opportunity to really think about Andover and what would be embraced here,” Pappadopoulos continued. “What would be a benefit to the community, that they don’t already have?”

He said it is unlikely that all three restaurants return to the way they used to be.

The fire began before 4 a.m. on a Sunday, and Pappadopoulos found out about it at around three hours later via a phone call from Andover’s health director.

“Full range of emotions, drove here thinking maybe it’s a little thing,” Pappadopoulos said. “It was obviously a lot more than a little one.”

The fire which began above the sprinkler system destroyed Sauce, Pappadopoulos said, and while there was not much fire damage in 15 Essex the place was flooded. Daxi was left with less damage.

Pappadopoulos said his first thoughts upon seeing the fire were of his employees.

“You think about all the people you work with,” Pappadopoulos said. “That depend on the business to pay their bills.”

While the issue of understaffing had caused him trouble, in the hours and days following the fire he found comfort in the fact that his staff would most likely be able to find jobs.

“That kind of fear was lessened by the fact that just about every single restaurant has a ton of jobs open right now,” Pappadopoulos said.

But it was still tough.

“We work so much in our industry that we are together so many hours,” Pappadopoulos said. “It was very difficult for all of us, we were a family a lot of us had worked together for a long long time.”

Despite not having an open restaurant he has managed to keep on a few employees.

“There is a lot of work to do, but we are not running a restaurant,” Pappadopoulos said.

So instead of cooking, cleaning or waiting on tables his staff is helping him with jobs like handling the fire claim.

After the fire Pappadopoulos said many members of the community reached out to him.

“Walking down the street I have gotten a bunch of hugs,” he said.

“It’s kinda bittersweet sometimes you don’t want to think about it,” Pappadopoulos said. “But is nice to know that people enjoyed having it in town.”

He added that he wanted to thank for the firefighters for their help that day.

Whatever ends up happening to the restaurants, Pappadopoulos said it will be a year before things are up and running again.

“I have to embrace the uncertainty,” he said.

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