As the landmark redbrick building near the square in Mount Vernon undergoes repairs from a devastating fire in December, the owner of a small restaurant has found hope just across the street.
After being closed for eight months, chef and owner Tony Chemmanoor reopened Indigma Restaurant in mid-August in temporary quarters at 801 N. Charles St.
The restaurant, serving Indian food and a weekday buffet beginning at 11:30 a.m., is busy welcoming back regular patrons.
“We are really excited to be reopened,” Chemmanoor said. “We were closed for eight months. It was emotional. I was used to waking up and coming to work and doing business well and one day somebody turned off my lights. It was kind of shocking.”
The five-alarm fire that gutted Park Place, a four-story, 110-year-old building at Charles and Madison streets on Dec. 7, required more than 150 firefighters and a couple of days to fully extinguish. The roof collapsed as well, making the damage a total loss for all tenants.
Besides Indigma, businesses including Donna’s Café, architectural firm Murphy & Dittenhafer, the MyThai Restaurant, Zenith Healthcare Services Inc., Ramer Equities Inc. and the Fund for Educational Excellence were also affected.
Workers began reconstructing the building after the first of the year, and the project is expected to be completed in April.
Chemmanoor said he plans to move back in after that.
“That’s the plan for now,” he said. “We still have time and we are working on the designs and stuff for the new location. They want everybody to come back and have that harmonious Thai, American, Indian selection of restaurants there. They want to have the same feeling to the building.”
Toni Harris, a regional property manager for The Time Group, an Owings Mills property management company that manages Park Place, declined to comment on the reconstruction work last week.
At Indigma, Chemmanoor said he has been energized to reopen the restaurant across the street from the fire-damaged location.
The temporary location is in a former mansion once home to Tony Cheng’s Szechuan Restaurant, which closed years ago. The building is known for its high ceilings, stately crystal chandeliers and a Victorian marble mantle surrounding a fireplace.
Optimism is high now that the curry, ginger, garlic and saffron are once again stirring in his pots. Indian cooking classes may soon resume, a hostess in the restaurant said. Weekend brunch buffets have also opened from noon to 3 p.m.
“This is a great space,” Chemmanoor said, of the mansion believed to be built in 1857. “As long as we are here and the community is supporting, that’s all that counts.”