University Park businesses rebuild, recover after Goff’s fire
On Aug. 12, an accidental grease fire burned down Goff’s Hamburgers located on Hillcrest Ave., a 65-year-old independent restaurant that was home to the SMU and University Park communities.
The fire, originating from a grease trap, led to vicious, dark clouds of smoke to fill the establishment and surrounding areas. The blistering squeal from the restaurant’s multi-fire alarm resulted in staff members and customers evacuating the scene while Dallas Police and Dallas Fire Rescue arrived, patrolling the area and putting out the fire.
After hours of battling smoke and flames amid traffic, the beloved restaurant reached its demise as only fragments of the building struggled to stand.
As the dust began to settle, it was clear Goff’s Hamburgers was not the sole business affected. The strip of businesses along Hillcrest, from the Lawrence G. Newman firm to McCartney’s University Spirit to Olivella’s and more suffered collateral damages.
University Park businesses are currently in the process of rebuilding and beginning to reopen, with Olivella’s leading the way, re-opening doors on Sept. 2.
According to Charlie Green, owner of Olivella’s, the University Park location was open for 10 years before having to temporarily close due to minor flood damages.
“We started making plans on how to re-open as quickly as possible as soon as we saw how intense the fire was, if our building would even be left standing,” Green said. “Luckily, we only had cosmetic work that needed to be done with the floors and ceiling, mechanical fixes with the air conditioning and replacements for our electronics.”
Olivella’s repaired all said damages within 20 days, and opened their food truck on Sept. 1 to thank SMU and University Park residents for their support, following restaurant doors opening at 6 p.m. on Sept. 2.
Olivella’s and Goff’s Hamburgers neighbor, the Lawrence G. Newman firm, unfortunately suffered major damages.
According to owner Lawrence Newman, a few of the hoses spraying water to put out the Goff’s fire were directly pointed in the office windows, flooding the building.
“I lost all my client files and documents that go back 10 to 20 years,” Newman said. “Fortunately, I had backed up a majority of my electronic documents so I have the past 4-6 years [on my desktop].”
As Newman slowly rebuilds his business, he’s set up a virtual office downtown at the Crescent and a studio office at home during the interim. He’s thankful his clients have been understanding and sympathetic, and believes customer loyalty and community support has been great during this time.
“All my [business] neighbors have been very supportive which is much appreciated,” Newman said. “There’s nothing you can do in this situation but try to find a silver lining . . . so I’m trying to look for mine in all the smoke.”
Another business staying optimistic is McCartney’s University Spirit.
The 1971-established retail store selling Greek, collegiate and personalized gifts suffered from water and smoke damage, according to manager Bryna Talamantez. While the firewall prevented extensive damage, all merchandise on the floor, fans, carpet and ceiling were ruined.
The store’s temporary close resulted in business declining during their busiest season. As many southern schools participate in fall rush, sales associate Bess Howard said McCartney’s relies on Greek organizations sales as it’s the company’s “main business for the year.”
Fellow sales associate Ashley Davis agreed, emphasizing that local business comprises a large portion of the company’s revenue.
“The timing was the worst,” Davis said. “It was bid week at many of the Texas schools, so you can imagine the loss of income we are experiencing right now. Also, with it being the start of school, we’re losing out on that revenue as well.”
Despite sale setbacks and a later re-opening date, expected between Sept. 30 to the first week of October, McCartney’s, like Newman, is finding a silver lining.
“We have just started the repair process and are completely revamping the store with a new look,” Howard said. “We are taking out the carpet and replacing it with cement– I think we are also getting new furniture and fixtures.”
While McCartney’s undergoes its makeover, Talamantez said fellow businesses and customers in University Park and the SMU community have been wonderful during this process.
The day after the fire, customers and friends just showed up out of the blue to see how they could help,” she said. “We had other local businesses like Bibbentucker’s Dry Cleaners offering us temporary space in their building. Chick-Fil-A kept us fed for over a week with a huge stack of gift cards and Bubba’s offered to feed over 20 people helping clean up the day after the fire. We are still getting calls and emails from our great neighbors, customers and the SMU community to see how we are doing. That has been wonderful and we appreciate everyone that has reached out to us.”