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After Armata’s Plaza fire in Longmeadow, GoFundMe aims to raise $75,000 for employees and businesses by Christmas

MassLive.com logo MassLive.com 11/27/2021 Will Katcher, masslive.com
The three-alarm fire left a total loss of six businesses at Armata's Plaza in Longmeadow on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. © Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/@repub.com The three-alarm fire left a total loss of six businesses at Armata's Plaza in Longmeadow on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021.

By the time the fire at Armata’s Plaza in Longmeadow was put out, five businesses were lost and nearly 75 people were out of work. But a grassroots effort organized by a local restaurant owner is helping the owners and workers get back on their feet.

Bill Collins, who owns East Longmeadow’s Center Square Grill, said on Tuesday that he would pledge the first $1,000 to a GoFundMe set up to assist the people affected by the fire.

On Friday, Collins did just that, adding his contribution to a campaign he organized alongside Erin Beck, compliance director at MassMutual, in hopes of raising $75,000 of relief for those out of work.

The GoFundMe can be found at this link.

The fire Tuesday destroyed five businesses at Armata’s Plaza, also known as the Maple Center Shopping Center — Armata’s Market, Bottle Shop liquor store, Iron Chef Asian Cuisine, Longmeadow Salon, and Dream Nail and Spa — which collectively employed 74 people. The plaza was a central shopping location for the Greater Longmeadow area, and its loss was “heartbreaking,” residents said.

Firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed the Armata's Plaza at 909 Shaker Road in Longmeadow. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 11/23/2021 © Don Treeger | dtreeger/@repub.com Firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed the Armata's Plaza at 909 Shaker Road in Longmeadow. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 11/23/2021

“No matter how you slice it, this is significant and devastating for the town of Longmeadow,” said Steven Marantz, vice chairman of the town’s select board. “It is awful. The whole complex is gone.”

While firefighters battled the flames at the shopping plaza on Tuesday, Collins posted in a community Facebook group, pledging his commitment to a GoFundMe and offered employment at his restaurant for anyone out of work due to the fire.

“Knowing what it’s like to be a small business owner, any time a small business is affected, we all feel their pain,” Collins said. “A lot of people have reached out asking how to contribute. It’s very important that everyone helps out.”

Collins said that the campaign would aim to raise $1,000 per employee affected by the fire. The main goal is to provide relief to the workers, Collins said, but he would like to help the owners too, if possible, until they can receive insurance payouts.

“We set our goal at $75,000 in the hopes that we blow that out of the water and get a lot of community support and are able to get a nice little chunk of money in all of the people’s hands before Christmas,” Collins said by text Friday. He challenged other local businesses to contribute and spread the word in hopes of attracting larger sponsors.

A rainbow froms in the mist as water is poured onto a blaze that destroyed the Armata's Plaza at 909 Shaker Road in Longmeadow. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 11/23/2021 © Don Treeger | dtreeger/@repub.com A rainbow froms in the mist as water is poured onto a blaze that destroyed the Armata's Plaza at 909 Shaker Road in Longmeadow. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 11/23/2021

The campaign is part of wave of support the burned-down businesses have received from people in and around Longmeadow.

Maureen’s Sweet Shop, in East Longmeadow, posted to its Facebook page that Armata’s Market had historically been a strong support of local businesses. In that spirit, the sweet shop encouraged local residents to pitch in to help the town’s small businesses.

One person told Armata’s Market that they had ordered a turkey for Thanksgiving, but wanted it donated to one of the employees instead.

“My family is fine,” the person wrote to the business on Facebook. “Please reach out to the community with whatever needs you may need. The community is here for you.”

People gather across the street from the Armata's Plaza in Longmeadow as firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed the plaza.  (Don Treeger / The Republican) 11/23/2021 © Don Treeger | dtreeger/@repub.com People gather across the street from the Armata's Plaza in Longmeadow as firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed the plaza. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 11/23/2021

Longmeadow Town Manager Lyn Simmons spoke with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on a call Tuesday, who expressed her condolences for those affected and offered assistance in helping the businesses and employees get back on their feet.

Longmeadow Fire Chief John Dearborn (center) talks with other first responders on the scene of a fire that destroyed the Armata's Plaza at 909 Shaker Road in Longmeadow. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 11/23/2021 © Don Treeger | dtreeger/@repub.com Longmeadow Fire Chief John Dearborn (center) talks with other first responders on the scene of a fire that destroyed the Armata's Plaza at 909 Shaker Road in Longmeadow. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 11/23/2021

Simmons said that the state is exploring expediting the unemployment insurance process to quickly bring relief to the 74 employees now out of work. Next week, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency will speak with the business owners about small businesses assistance loans that could help them rebuild.

Firefighters clean up Armata's Plaza in Longmeadow Tuesday evening, Nov. 23, 2021. © Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/@repub.com Firefighters clean up Armata's Plaza in Longmeadow Tuesday evening, Nov. 23, 2021.

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Firefighters clean up Armata's Plaza in Longmeadow Tuesday evening, Nov. 23, 2021.

Firefighters clean up Armata's Plaza in Longmeadow Tuesday evening, Nov. 23, 2021.
© Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/@repub.com
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