Photos by Stacie Joy
Exit9 Gift Emporium reopened yesterday — just two days after the two-alarm fire destroyed neighboring business Essex Card Shop late Monday afternoon here on Avenue A between Third Street and Fourth Street.
EVG contributor Stacie Joy stopped by the shop yesterday, where she found a thankful co-owner Charles Branstool in the retail space in the base of the 13-floor Ageloff Towers...
However pleased Branstool was to be back open, his thoughts remained with his neighbor to the south. Essex Card Shop relocated next door at 47 Avenue A in June 2020. However, like Exit9, the Card Shop has been an Avenue A mainstay for more than 20 years.
"Let's not forget the real tragedy here is the loss of Essex Card Shop. My heart goes out to Muhammed and Jay and their family. I can't imagine what trauma they must be experiencing at this moment," Branstool said. "If there's one thing this community has taught me is that we know how to be resilient. Let's help them rebuild." (He then mentioned their GoFundMe effort. "Every little bit helps during times like this.")
Given the dramatic photos at the scene on Monday, it's incredible that Exit9 remained intact, free of any water damage. A faint odor of smoke hung in the air. (There's an air purifier running in the shop.) A fire official told Stacie that the solid cement ceiling and brick walls in the storefronts served as a firebreak and prevented further damage to the building.
"As for Exit9, she is a survivor. We just needed one day to rest and freshen up. We've cleaned up our floors and shelves, and a HEPA air filter is scrubbing the air," he said. "New Valentine's Day windows have already been installed. A fluffy feather baby cradled in a giant white heart, so things are already looking up for us." now in its 27th year, is at 51 Avenue A. Store hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with Sunday hours of noon to 6 p.m.