JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A beloved family-owned seafood restaurant on Jacksonville’s Northside sustained major damage Thursday morning in a fire.
Seham Kassees-Salazar’s brother and son co-own Junior’s Seafood and Grill on North Main Street, just north of Zoo Parkway. Her brother also owns Junior’s Famous Sandwiches in the same one-story building.
The doors have been open, serving the community for more than 45 years.
Both businesses sustained severe damage Thursday in a fire that took about 65 Jacksonville Fire and Rescue personnel roughly 50 minutes to get under control.
“It’s just devastating to see this,” Kassees-Salazar said. “It is just heartbreaking because everybody comes here. Everybody loves it. Anybody who you go and talk to, they brag about Junior’s.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the owners rebuild.
No one was inside at the time of the fire and no firefighters were injured battling the blaze, JFRD spokesperson Capt. Eric Prosswimmer said.
He said firefighters arrived at Junior’s within two minutes of being dispatched after the call came in at 7:20 a.m.
Smoke was coming from the building when they arrived, and the fire appeared to be coming from the attic space, though it’s unclear if the fire started there. A viewer shared a photo showing thick smoke billowing from the building.
Prosswimmer explained that crews had to pull out at one point and call for back-up because there were safety concerns and the fire wasn’t easy to handle.
“I’m sad to say the businesses will be closed for a while. There’s pretty substantial damage to the entire structure,” Prosswimmer said. “We’re trying to make sure we save this business and save what we can for these owners. There are people that their livelihood depends on this and there are tough times right now. So our concern is taking care of their property.”
On the outside, burn marks could be seen with parts of the roof missing and plenty of debris around the tables.
Kassees-Salazar asked for prayers.
“We could use a lot of prayers. As much as my sons have helped the community and everybody, let’s hope and pray they will pull together for them as well,” she said.
Prosswimmer said the State Fire Marshal has been called to investigate the cause of the fire. They will determine how much repairs will cost as the owners figure out if they can salvage the building and re-open the restaurants.
In the meantime, firefighters worked Thursday morning to contain any hot spots.
“They’re going to meticulously look for hidden areas of fire. Because it’s in an attic space you have a lot of crevices, you have a lot of hidden stuff, you have chases. We’ve got to worry about that,” Prosswimmer said. “The last thing we want is to come back here later to it burning again.”
Between water and smoke and heat, there’s a lot of damage to the building, he said.
“We kind of tear things apart to expose the fire where it hides, and in doing such it looks like we destroy the place, but it saves it in the long run,” he explained.
Main Street North reopened at 9:30 a.m. after being closed while crews were on the scene.