Shelton business owners plan to look into fire assistance

Two business owners who lost their livelihood due to the Jan. 6 fire in downtown Shelton plan to look into the assistance available to help them open up their businesses again.

Long-term, low-interest loans will be made available from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and various state programs also can provide help.

Jayesh Patel, owner of Howe Convenient, said he plans to meet with SBA officials to find out more about the loans.

He and his wife bought the convenience store two years ago, working virtually around the clock to keep it open for 105 hours a week until the fire.

Store owner: ‘It was very bad’

Patel is currently looking at some other locations to open a store, both in Shelton and nearby towns. His lives in Shelton with his family.

On the night of the fire, when he first saw the extent of the damage to the large building that housed his store — as well as other stores and apartments — he was in shock.

“It was very bad — already burned down,” he said of arriving on the scene at about 1:15 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 6. The fire was first reported slightly after 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night.

Put their savings into the store

Edgar Ojeda, who operated the dollar store next to Howe Convenient, also wants to learn more about the government assistance programs.

“We need it,” Ojeda said. “We had put all our money and effort into the store. It was a family operation.”

Ojeda and his wife had just bought the Dollar Chest store two months before the fire. They lost all their inventory and had no insurance on the contents.

It was an independently operated business, so there is no help available from a larger chain store company, he said.

The Ojedas are looking at other possible locations to open a store, but in the meantime they plan to get full-time jobs working elsewhere to help make ends meet.

‘Face-to-face with applicants’

On Saturday, it was announced an SBA relief office will open in Shelton City Hall this week.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, speaking in Shelton at the Echo Hose firehouse on Coram Avenue, said opening the temporary SBA office will enable SBA personnel “to speak face to face with applicants.”

Officials said loans with interest rates as low at 2.25% will be available to the displaced business owners, apartment residents, the property owner, and others impacted by the fire.

This includes up to $40,000 for personal possessions and contents lost by businesses and residents, $200,000 for destroyed residences, and up to $2 million for businesses. Various eligibility criteria apply.

Officials said SBA and state personnel also should be able to help those impacted by the blaze work with their insurance companies on claim settlements.