On the eve of Thanksgiving, a popular art gallery and antique shop in Virginia-Highland burst into flames, sending onlookers and social media users into a frenzy of worry and speculation.
Paris on Ponce, the longtime occupant of a century-old building on Ponce de Leon Avenue fronting the Beltline’s Eastside Trail, billowed smoke and fire that could be seen for miles that night, as a two-alarm fire ravaged the structure’s interior, according to WSB-TV.
Now, though, community members are raising funds to help repair the charred destination, which for decades has been a go-to for local artists, musicians, and other creatives.
A GoFundMe page launched by Paris on Ponce owner Nicolette Valdespino has already garnered more than $8,000.
The goal is to round up $100,000 to restore the 46,000-square-foot space—originally the Colgate Mattress Factory—back to its former glory.
A fast and aggressive fire attack by our firefighters last night saved the majority of a large commercial building at 716 Ponce de Leon Place near the #Beltline. Numerous business occupy the building, including #ParisOnPonce Fire caused severe damage to the structure. #AFRD pic.twitter.com/waN6yhLwIA— Atlanta Fire Rescue (@ATLFireRescue) November 28, 2019
For those who worked at Paris on Ponce, it was devastating to watch the smoke rise as they raced toward the building, Valdespino wrote in a plea for support.
“As we collectively careened towards the building, seeing the flames erupt from our home was beyond heartrending,” she wrote. “It is catastrophic, but nothing that we aren’t ready to tackle. To conquer. To protect.”
Valdespino said she and “the Paris on Ponce family” hope insurance will cover some of the costs to repair the old building, but “these things take time—usually months—and if we have a shot to begin rebuilding, it has to be now.”
The fire badly damaged the building’s utility lines, but the age-old brick walls protected many of the retail vendors, the owner said.
The source of the blaze isn’t yet known.