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Long IslandNassau

Fire destroys Williston Park building housing bagel store, tutoring business

First responders on the scene of a fire

First responders on the scene of a fire Sunday morning on Hillside Avenue in Williston Park. Credit: Lou Minutoli

A popular Williston Park bagel store went up in flames early Sunday morning after a fire in a delivery van spread to the building, police officials said.

Workers at Bagel Express fled the building and residents in nearby apartments were safely evacuated around 6 a.m. while more than 100 firefighters battled the blaze.

There were no civilian injuries. One Williston Park firefighter was taken to a nearby hospital for a shoulder injury, according to fire officials.

The building at 61 Hillside Ave., which also housed Eye Level, a tutoring business, was destroyed, said Nassau County Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Michael Uttaro.

"The building is a total loss with collapse," he said.

Several hours later, the storefronts were boarded up, leaving only the charred business signs.

“They were very nice, everyone goes there,” said Jerry Fiore, 52, of Williston Park as he stared at the bleak scene. “These really were the best bagels I ever had.”

It’s still unclear whether Bagel Express will rebuild, said Jane Facchini, the wife of co-owner Claudio Facchini.

“We are very thankful no one got hurt,” she said.

Darwin Aparicio, who lives in one of the apartments at 65 Hillside Ave. that was evacuated said he, his wife and his two children stayed in their car until they were allowed to return.

“We all had to leave,” he said. “Everyone was standing, watching it. … There was a lot of fire, a lot of firemen, a lot of trucks.”

The 911 call came in around 6 a.m. and officers from the Nassau County Police Department’s Third Precinct arrived to see a 2008 Chrysler delivery van owned by Bagel Express on fire. The vehicle was parked in a rear lot close to the building, police officials said.

The Williston Park Fire Department responded with assistance from the Mineola Fire Department and the Manhasset Lakeville Fire Department to extinguish the raging flames.

All 16 residents of 65 Hillside Ave. were temporarily displaced during a power outage.

The Nassau County Fire Marshal and the Nassau County Arson Bomb Squad were on the scene Sunday.

Residents walking along Hillside Avenue said they were saddened to see their neighborhood bagel shop, known for giving its youngest customers free mini bagels, gutted.

“I’ve been going there since I was a kid,” said Steven Shelley, 41, of Williston Park. “Everyone loves Bagel Express.”

“I always bought my bagels there," said Tom Phelan, 62, of East Williston as he walked his dog Coco on Hillside Avenue. "I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

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