Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's Filipino restaurant 'absolutely terrified' by suspicious fire at daycare next door

Police are asking anyone with information about the early-July fire at Mother Hen's Daycare to contact them or call Crime Stoppers.

Investigation into the early-July fire at the Ropewalk Lane strip mall business continues

Jocelyn Delacruz opened RJ Pinoy Yum in a strip mall on Ropewalk Lane with her husband Ricky Delacruz in the fall of 2015. (RJ Pinoy Yum/Facebook)

When Jocelyn and Ricky Delacruz opened up RJ Pinoy Yum in 2015, they were fulfilling not only their own dream but also that of Jocelyn's mother, who hoped to one day open a Filipino restaurant of her own.

So when Jocelyn got a call early on July 3 saying there had been a fire in the business right next door to their restaurant in a Ropewalk Lane strip mall, she says she was "absolutely terrified."

"We thought it was really bad for us," she said. "When we went there, it's all the shattered glass from our ... door of our restaurant."

Mother Hen's Daycare was destroyed by the fire, which started some time before 4 a.m. on July 3 and is now being considered suspicious. The daycare is operating out of a temporary space at Brother Rice Jr. High. While the flames were confined to the daycare, firefighters had to smash the windows in the neighbouring businesses in order to check for hot spots. 

Though it wasn't affected by the flames, the smoke damage in RJ Pinoy Yum next door was bad enough to shut down the restaurant for nearly three weeks, Delcruz said.

"It's kind of scary for us, because we're a small business and we're trying to generate our income with our sales," she said.

Firefighters had to break windows in the businesses adjacent to Mother Hen's. RJ Pinoy Yum was closed for nearly three weeks because of smoke damage. (CBC/Eddy Kennedy)

The biggest hit — and the biggest heartbreak — came when they had to throw out their entire inventory of food because of the smoke damage, she said.

"All of our food is made from scratch and my husband and our workers as well, they have to prepare the food for the whole week," she said.

"All the preparation, it's all thrown out."

Grateful to be open again

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said Monday that the investigation to the fire is ongoing. 

With the blaze considered suspicious, police are asking anyone with information to contact them or to phone Crime Stoppers.

As police deal with the fire investigation, Jocelyn and Ricky Delacruz have had to scramble to make up the lost income, as did their six employees, she said.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact them or call Crime Stoppers. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

She and Ricky said they are extremely grateful they have insurance, and that there weren't any children in the daycare when the fire broke out.

After extensive work inside on the ceiling and the walls, RJ Pinoy Yum opened again on July 22, much ot the delight of both the Delacruzes and their customers. 

"It's a great thing, it's overwhelming for us. We have only the Facebook page and people, they are concerned and they are really sending us the message that ... we miss you," she said.

"Everyone's happy again."

Jocelyne Delacruz's mother lived in the Philippines and died before she got to see her daughter's restaurant in Canada, but Delacruz says she would have been proud.

"We're so thankful that Newfoundlanders love our food."

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