In the early hours of January 3rd, a devastating fire ripped through Sovana Bistro and Nicholas Anthony Salon and in Unionville’s Willowdale Town Center.
Nearly a month later, salon owner Anthony DiFrancesco is still grappling with the physical and emotional toll of the blaze, which has forced the salon to close its doors indefinitely.
Reflecting on the fire, he still remembers the inescapable smell of smoke and the sight of flames leaping from the roof of his beloved salon. In DiFrancesco’s eyes, the firefighters who reported from across the region were the first of many acts of kindness from the community.
“The firefighters were wonderful,” he said. “I have a different appreciation for them now. They’re incredibly brave.”
On the night of the blaze, DiFrancesco was awakened by the safety alarm on his phone, which warned him of a possible break-in at the salon.
When he ran to check the surveillance cameras on his computer, DiFrancesco saw several people crowding his lobby — people he would later learn were first responders. DiFrancesco feared a robbery until he noticed the flashing red lights of emergency vehicles. It was then that he realized the situation was much more dire.
“I noticed smoke on the cameras, so I ran and threw on some sweats, sneakers and a jacket,” he said. “When I came back to the cameras 10 minutes later, I couldn’t see anything. The whole salon was covered in smoke.”
Once he arrived on the scene, Francesco recalls watching flames shoot from the roof of his business. An estimated 120 to 150 emergency personnel responded to the fire, and the fight against the elements lasted well past sunrise. It would be 8 am before firefighters extinguished the blaze. DiFrancesco stayed on the scene for hours to assess the damage and begin the arduous road toward insurance claims.
“It was devastating,” he said. “I closed the salon on Thursday night, and when I came back Friday afternoon, I’d lost everything.”
The salon — which had recently been renovated with new flooring, new custom-made cutting and coloring stations, newly renovated bathrooms, and a handicap-accessible pedicure station — was completely devastated during the roughly five-hour fire. According to DiFrancesco, the back wall and ceiling were burned, as well as a large amount of insulation.
The ensuing water and smoke damage destroyed much of what was left of the salon, which had 15 cutting stations, six coloring stations, three esthetician rooms and one message room. DiFrancesco has yet to learn the total extent of the loss.
As he navigates the muddy insurance terrain and plans the future of his business, DiFrancesco charts a parallel path securing a temporary solution for his 30 employees.
Though Nicholas Anthony Salon is still paying employees through work interruption insurance, there’s no saying when the salon will reopen. But DiFrancesco says it’s important for morale that his employees return to their regular schedules as soon as possible.
So, Anthony is developing plans to open a pop-up salon in the Willowdale center. This temporary salon would provide hair, nail and limited spa services while DiFrancesco works with insurance, lawyers and accountants to get the old salon up and running.
“If all goes well, hopefully in six to eight weeks I can get something up,” he said. “If I had it my way, I’d have it faster.” DiFrancesco already has designs for his pop-up salon and has reached out to clients over social media, telling them to keep an eye out for more information.
“This is awesome news! My niece works here and loves it. I’m so very glad to get this update. Blessings,” wrote Linda Hanna on the salon’s Facebook page.
Shortly after the fire, several GoFundMe fundraisers popped up after the fire to help the salon get back on track. Countless other community members have joined together to show love for DiFrancesco and his team. Tamburrino Family Orthodontics on Unionville Road donated a portion of treatment fees from new patients in the month of January to both the salon and restaurant. SalonCentric also gifted the Nicholas Anthony team with pizza and treats to boost their morale.
“The support has been amazing,” DiFrancesco said. “I’m the type of person who would normally donate to these types of things, but I realize that this will help my staff. That’s the most important thing to me.”
Of course, DiFrancesco hopes to get back to his loyal clientele as soon as possible. He has been a force in the beauty industry for nearly three decades, and his Redken Elite salon is considered one of the top salons in the region.
Prior to settling down in the Willowdale Town Center, DiFrancesco co-owned a salon on Greenhill Avenue in Wilmington and held apprenticeships with world-famous stylists.
Before the fire, the Nicholas Anthony Salon offered classic hair services as well as massages, skincare, lash services and nail art. Despite their wide range of offerings, DiFrancesco believes that his salon was best known for its welcoming environment.
“The support has been amazing,” DiFrancesco said. “The goal is to eventually return to our original salon. For now, we’ve been reaching out to our clients to let them know that we’re working on getting back on our feet.” For updates on the pop-up salon, those interested can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.