An early morning fire Friday did significant damage to a Unionville strip mall, reportedly destroying the popular Sovana Bistro restaurant.
Po-Mar-Lin Fire Chief Jason Griffith, who led 15 to 16 fire companies and emergency personnel at the scene, says he believes at this time the fire was accidental. The Chester County Fire Marshall’s Office will have to conclude its investigation before a final determination is made.
“It’s going to go under as a total loss, from what the fire marshalls have told us,” said Griffith. “There were two stand-alone towers on either side that were saved and salvaged. But the building itself between the Bistro and the nail salon — that part of the building is going to be a total loss,” he told Town Square Delaware.
Firefighters were called to the Willowdale Town Center on Unionville Road around 2:30 am Friday where they encountered a blaze that took 40 minutes to bring under control. Griffith estimates that between 120 and 150 fire and emergency personnel responded to the blaze.
No injuries were reported on the scene.
Griffith confirmed that the the fire got into the “void spaces” (spaces between outer and inner walls) of the building, making it difficult to control the blaze. and “That made it very difficult for us to look. We couldn’t actually see fire from the inside. It was hidden behind some of the walls and void spaces that were tougher to access. It took a lot of work to actually pull down walls and a lot of the ceiling to try to find it.”
The 20-year firefighter added that crews were also concerned about the metal roof giving way in before their work was done. “It started to buckle, but it never caved in,” said Griffith.
Fire crews completed work at the scene by 8:00 am this morning. The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District announced a two-hour delay due to road closures in the area.
A nearby salon, Nicholas Anthony Salon and Day Spa, also reported sustained smoke damage in the blaze. They announced at 10:30 this morning that they will remain closed until repairs are complete. Their Facebook administrator shared, “Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us today! Unfortunately, the salon will be closed until further noticed due to damages from the fire. Thank you all for all the love from our entire staff.”
Sovana Bistro has long been a pillar of the Chester County upscale dining scene. The restaurant opened in January 1998 by Nick Farrell, who grew up in nearby Glen Mills. Farrell was just 23 years old at the time and named the restaurant Sovana in honor of a small town in southern Tuscany, Italy.
Harvest Seasonal Grill, with locations in Glen Mills and Radnor, has already offered to take on any displaced employees “at any location” while Sovana rebuilds.
The Facebook administrator for Sovana Bistro shared a post this afternoon on Facebook: “We are currently assessing the situation and will be in communication with you, our raving fans, as things unfold. You can rest assured that when we do return, we will be even better than we ever were before.”
Fans of the restaurant were distraught at the news as many offered support and concern on Facebook: