For Anthony, George and Perry Sfikas, and their uncle, George Mavrogiannis, the fire that ravaged their Bel Air restaurant early Tuesday couldn't have come at a worse time.
"Our business is usually excellent, but this time of year we just go into overdrive between crab season and catering jobs," said Anthony Sfikas, whose family's business, Uncle George's Restaurant, is at 120 S. Bond St.
"We're going to reopen as quickly as possible," he said. "You don't just let 12 years of your life go down the drain. In the meantime, it'll be difficult, but we're going to honor our catering contracts."
A malfunctioning gas furnace triggered the blaze at Uncle George's Restaurant about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, the state Fire Marshal's Office said. A town police officer on patrol spotted the blaze. One firefighter was treated for dehydration at Fallston General Hospital and released. No one else was injured. Sfikas estimated that the blaze caused $150,000 to $200,000 damage.
The three brothers and their uncle started the business 12 years ago. The restaurant took their uncle's name, Sfikas said, after one of the workers remarked that the three young men were always helping out Uncle George.
"The name just stuck. We tried to make it like other restaurants we liked. They weren't real fancy, but there was something about the ambience that just made you feel good," said Sfikas.
"We had a huge box with nothing but thank-yous and postcards that people had sent us. We managed to salvage a handful, but most are just gone, ashes."
What lingers, though, is the goodwill of their customers, said Sfikas.
"We must have had 200 to 300 people stop in and offer us their condolences or their assistance," said Sfikas. "We never have liked to call them customers. They're really family."