The fire dealt a devastating blow to Lollipops Diner owners Michael and Costas Psillis. The father-and-son team worked seven days a week at the popular local eatery.
"This is the worst thing that can happen," said Costas Psillis. "At least no one got hurt. That's more important."
Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said even the stores that suffered relatively minor damage are facing tough times because of the nationwide financial meltdown.
"This could not have happened at a worse time," said Avella , who lives near the fire site. "The mom-and-pop stores are barely making it as it is."
The charred overhang of the shopping center almost hides the fact that King's Chef Chinese Restaurant is open for business.
A hand-written sign in the window reads: "Thank God we are in business again."
Owner Patrick Chan credits Avella for helping him get a quick inspection and approval from the city Health Department to reopen his busy takeout shop.
Whitestone Shopping Center tries to rebound after devastating fire