For decades, residents of the Belair-Edison neighborhoo have been able to count on a couple of things.
They knew that if they walked along the 3400 block of Belair Road, most people they met would greet them by their first names.
They knew that they could get their best shoes quickly reheeled at David's Shoe Store.
And they knew they could count on the Savon grocery store to stock everything from Pepsi to kasha -- and deliver it to their homes if need be.
But a multialarm fire Monday night destroyed the neighborhood market, the shoe store and a newer furniture and appliance store, leaving many residents wondering what they will do without the friendly meeting places and where the elderly among them will shop.
"This was part of my life. I know Miss Jean and her son who owns [Savon's], and they're lovely people," Nicole Lanasa, 18, whose family has lived in the area for years, said yesterday. "To me it feels like a part of us is lost, too."
The fire, which apparently began with an electrical short, caused an estimated $1.8 million in damage, said Capt. Eugene Owens, a Fire Department investigator.
The building that housed the three stores sustained $1 million of the damage, he said. Damage to the contents was estimated at $500,000 at the market, $100,000 at the shoe store and $200,000 at Magic Rent to Own, the furniture-appliance business.
The fire began in the ceiling with "high burning, where you have tremendous heat on steel beams, heat so intense it caused the beam to twist and fall away from the wall," Captain Owens said.
The day after the fire, saws buzzed and passers-by gaped as workmen boarded up the blackened storefronts.
"They were old friends. A lot of people are going to miss these places," said Jennie Assaro, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years, as she stood with her grandson and watched.
Savon's, which took phone orders and delivered goods to the elderly and housebound, will be particularly missed, neighbors said. The small market was founded in 1970 by Russian immigrant Chaim Gloger and his wife. Mr. Gloger died a year ago, and the family business was continued by his son, Herschel Gloger.
His father's philosophy was to stock "what the people wanted," Mr. Gloger said.
Because the neighborhood is populated by many people of Greek, Ukrainian, Russian and Polish heritage, the father took pleasure in stocking the store's shelves with dozens of varieties of olives and pastas.
Virginia Ridgwell, who uses a wheelchair to get around her rowhouse about a block from the stores, said she will now be dependent on neighbors to drive to stores for her. "This is a real loss in this neighborhood," she said.