Businesses regain footing

Email|Print| Text size + By Kathy McCabe
Globe Staff / November 18, 2007

Pizza and pies, doughnuts, and fried clams are on the horizon in Danversport, where small business owners are staking a new claim on the commercial strip along Water Street.

Danversport Bakery and the Danversport Pizza Factory, which share a building, aim to open by the end of January. A new Dunkin' Donuts and a seafood restaurant planned before last November's chemical explosion are moving ahead.

Liberty Marina, which lost two buildings in the blast, plans to build a 12,600-square-foot steel warehouse.

A new nail salon is slated for the former North Shore Association of Realtors office on Water Street, which relo cated to Beverly after the Nov. 22, 2006 blast. Concord Oil, a gas station at the corner of Bates and Water streets, was the first to rebuild, opening last June.

The process has been slow and costly. According to building permits filed with the town, the bakery/pizza shop reconstruction will cost $404,000.

Delays were caused by the environmental cleanup, which required removing thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals stored on the site of the ink-and-paint factory shared by CAI Inc. of Georgetown and Arnel Co.

Investigators have said the explosion was caused by a buildup of chemical vapors inside the plant.

The economic toll was severe on the small business owners, most of whom were self-employed. But most believe their new investment, collectively estimated in the millions, will pay off.

"The area is going to look so much better," said Maria Silva, owner of the building housing Danversport Bakery and the Danversport Pizza Factory. "From day one, both my [tenants] wanted to move back. It's a good location, and now with all the new building in the neighborhood, it's going to really improve."

Arthur Siasios, owner of Cappy's Seafood at Salem Willows, hopes to open Cappy's Danversport where the Danversport Bottled Gas and Abbey Fence companies were once located. He bought the properties prior to the explosion.

His plan for a 2,670-square foot building, housing a 30-seat restaurant and a commercial office unit, is now being reviewed by the town's Planning Board.

"I'm hoping things go OK," said Siasios. "It's been a very long process. . . . It's been over a year since I bought the property."

Danversport, a small area near the Peabody line, is one of the oldest industrial areas in Danvers. Propane gas businesses, electricians, warehouses, a marina, and restaurants dot the landscape. Most suffered heavy damages from the blast.

CAI Inc. and Arnel Co. were among the mix, but won't be back: The two companies gave up their permit to store flammable materials on the site. CAI continues to operate, but not in Danvers; Arnel is no longer in business.

Town Manager Wayne P. Marquis said it's unclear what will come of the now-vacant site, which is less than an acre. He did not rule out the town trying to purchase it. "It is in the general vicinity of our waterfront. We are interested in [increasing] public access to our waterfront, both for open space, and recreational opportunities."

Siasios said delays caused by the explosion have been costly. The buildings he purchased prior to the blast had to be demolished. Equipment and trailers used for the environmental cleanup of the site were parked there, further delaying his plans, he said.

Before the blast, the town's Zoning Board balked at a 3,300-square-foot restaurant, prompting Siasios to redo the plan. His new proposal for a smaller restaurant is allowed by the current zoning and does not require the board's approval, he said.

But he worries about obtaining long-term financing for the project.

"I still have current financing; it has to go to a longer term," said Siasios, a 10-year restaurant owner. "The blast just caused a lot of problems. For the stage I was in, when it happened, just really set me back. Now we're running into a time when banks are tightening lending. . . . It's not a good time for all of this to happen."

Thomas Lamoly, who has owned the Concord Gas station site since 1974, faced a different challenge.

He leases the property to Concord Oil, a privately owned company. The station had to be demolished after the explosion. Lamoly obtained financing to rebuild the 1,500-square-foot gas station at a cost of $349,000, but filed a lawsuit in Salem Superior Court against Concord Oil, alleging breach of contract, court papers show.

Lamoly alleged the company did not carry insurance on the property, as required by the lease, according to the complaint. He also alleged Concord stopped paying rent from the time of the explosion.

"I never had any problems with them, until they stopped paying me rent," he said in an interview.

Concord Oil countered that a "clerical error" left the gas station off its list of insured properties, and that a provision of the lease allowed for rent payments to be suspended should the property be found "unfit for use and occupation," court papers show.

The case is still pending in court, with a trial date expected in 2008, according to court records.

Adam J. Brodsky, a lawyer representing Concord Oil, declined to comment.

Other business owners have had an easier time.

Silva - who started Danversport Bakery 22 years ago - sold the business 18 months before the blast to the Neves and Ferreira families of Peabody. They were busy filling Thanksgiving orders for Portuguese bread and pies when the factory next door exploded.

Silva - who retained ownership of the real estate - has built a slightly larger, single-story building. But the bakery and pizza factory will have the same amount of space as before, she said.

"From day one [my tenants] always wanted to go back," said Silva, whose daughter still decorates cakes at the bakery. "Once I heard that, I knew I would rebuild."

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