Fire destroyed the inside of a nail salon in a commercial building on Route 12 this morning, but did not spread to neighboring businesses. There were no injuries.
The building houses nine businesses including Elegant Nails, Yamashita International Karate studio, the Williams Law Office, Sylvan Learning Center, The Mail Room, Shear Friends hair salon and CorePlus Federal Credit Union. Many of the businesses have been there 20 years or more.
Groton City Fire Chief Nick Delia said firefighters were called to the building at 9:18 a.m. and found heavy fire when they arrived. No one was inside, he said.
"When the first units arrived we had heavy fire coming out of the nail salon," he said. Fire was contained to the first floor but traveling up the outside of the building, he said.
Fire departments from Groton City, Old Mystic, Naval Submarine Base New London and Poquonnock Bridge responded. The fire was mostly out, except for hot spots, by 10:30 a.m.
Wayne Chiapperini, of Mystic, who owns the building and designed it himself 25 years ago, said he invested in extra fire protection and is glad he did.
The building has concrete walls that separate the units, double-coated fire sheet rock and ceiling tiles with fire coating, he said.
Chiapperini owns an engineering and surveying business inside the building and said he normally comes to work Saturday morning. He said he received a call from Sylvan Learning Center as he was getting ready to go in, that a fire alarm was going off. The center had a class going on at the time.
Chiapperini said he arrived at the building and found nothing amiss, but then saw smoke when he walked upstairs.
It smelled acidic, but he couldn't figure out where it was coming from, he said
"I knew there was something wrong," he said. "To be honest, I didn't think there was a fire." Then as he was walking to the phone to call the fire department, the owner of the hair salon said the shop was on fire.
Delia said the building is still structurally sound, although the nail salon was gutted.
The building official remained on the scene Saturday morning, and firefighters were airing out neighboring businesses.
Chiapperini said he has insurance in the event of a fire.
His tenants arrived, hugged him, and offered to help if they could.
"It's worse than I thought it was," said Donna Rivero, who owns Shear Friends with a partner. "It's very upsetting to me, because we're all like a community here."
The cause of the fire remained under investigation.