Top College News Subscribe to the Newsletter

Popular local eatery burns down; owners vow to return 'soon'

Published: Sunday, October 15, 2006

Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 13:08


James Folta

The charred remains of the Urban Gourmet sign mark the store's damaged entrace.

Friday the 13th proved to be very unlucky for Mike Merza and his younger brother Yasser.

Urban Gourmet, the popular restaurant the two have co-owned for the past three months, burned down in the early morning hours Friday.

An electrical fire broke out at approximately 3 a.m.; officials were alerted after a bread delivery person saw smoke and called the fire department.

According to a report issued by the Somerville Fire Department, the time of the call was 3:11 a.m., and the fire was extinguished by 5:14 a.m.

While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Yasser Merza points out that the rain from last Thursday significantly damaged the roof, which caused water to come through the electric wires.

"It took [the fire department], like, eight hours in the investigation to figure [out the result of the fire]. There's nothing we can do," he said. "I just thank God that no one got hurt and that it wasn't a gas explosion."

Mike Merza bought Urban Gourmet a mere three months ago - but damages from the fire were estimated between $160,000 and $180,000. The estimate factors in expenses for new equipment, including a $40,000 hood to ventilate the restaurant, a pizza oven costing between $12,000 and $15,000, and grills for $1,500 each.

Insurance will cover most of the damages, but Yasser Merza, who also owns Sound Bites on Broadway, has stood by his brother and has said that he will help him financially.

"We are family," he said.

Yasser Merza confirmed that he will be working with his brother for the next several months to ensure that the restaurant is rebuilt properly. "I already have a design in my head," he said.

"We are going to make it better for sitting and make everything brand new," Mike Merza said.

Mike Merza says he is trying to maintain a positive attitude.

"Every day is different. It's like Massachusetts weather; every five minutes, it's different. If you don't like the weather now, it will be different and changed," he said. "We believe everything will be okay, and we are going to be open for business very soon."

Yasser Merza predicts that it will take anywhere from two to three months to rebuild the restaurant.

"We have the money," Mike Merza said. "We would like to go back to business, because everyone likes us."

According to Mike Merza, 50 to 60 percent of Urban Gourmet's business comes from Tufts students.

Senior Vanessa Montenegro will miss Urban Gourmet. "It's a great alternative to all the pizza places in the area," she said. "It's fresh and not too expensive."

Recommended: Articles that may interest you

Be the first to comment on this article! Log in to Comment

You must be logged in to comment on an article. Not already a member? Register now

Log In