|Though the acrid smell of smoke from Sunday night's downtown fire was gone by Thursday morning, University Avenue was looking like a shadow of its usual self, as blockades and police tape diverted cars and pedestrians around a three-block safety zone.
Nearby businesses have been left in limbo in the wake of the fire. Some store owners spent this week dealing with fire and water damage to their shops, while others -- caught in unfortunate proximity to the site of the blaze -- have been put on hold, with city officials declaring the area too dangerous for business as usual.
All are wondering when they will be able to open again.
"I was shocked. How could this happen?" asked Amos Wu, whose Subway franchise, along with Walgreens, make up the bottom floor of the burned building at 310 University Ave.
Wu did not want to say how much money his business was losing each day since the fire, but said he worried about whether he can find jobs for his nine employees.
"They have been working in the Subway for a long time and have been very good employees. It would be sad to have them leave," Wu said.
Subway and Walgreens were declared unsafe to enter, following a structural engineer's assessment.
"The walls are unsafe right now. They're unsupported," Palo Alto Police Agent Rich Bullerjahn said.
If the building were to collapse, the walls "could go in, could go out. We don't know," he said.
Next door, workers were still pumping water out of the basement of their building -- housing Sports Gallery, Satura Cakes and Gleim Jewelers -- Thursday morning.
"We're racing to get all our stuff out," Sports Gallery Store Manager Armando De Anda said earlier this week, wiping his brow.
De Anda had already spent more than two hours hauling merchandise out of the soaked store, putting it into a white Chrysler minivan.
George Schumann of Gleim Jewelers spent part of Tuesday helping De Anda and other Sports Gallery employees transport their merchandise to a warehouse in Mountain View.
"We're putting ourselves at risk by doing this. They recommended not going in there," Schumann said, referring to a police warning that their shops would not be safe if the Walgreens and Subway building collapsed.
The basement of the Sports Gallery, which is next to Subway, was "up to here in water," De Anda said, pointing to his waist. Sports Gallery still had four feet of water in its basement two days after the fire.
De Anda estimated that the water damage would cost the business "probably tens of thousands of dollars."
Satura Cakes had less water in its basement than Sports Gallery but enough to cause at least $10,000 of damage, Satura's Director of Sales Operations Jennifer Voight estimated.
"It's a total mess downstairs," Voight said. "Yesterday, I was wading through and saving what I could. Our whole office is done for."
Satura housed its corporate office in the University Avenue location's basement, and water ruined many files and other important materials in addition to the bakery's inventory, Voight said.
Schumann said Gleim had about six inches of water in its basement. He and his wife, store owner Georgie Gleim, moved their wares to their other locations in Los Altos and in the Stanford Shopping Center.
"We don't know when we'll be able to open for business again," Schumann said.
Walgreens and Subway will not reopen any time soon.
A Walgreens corporate spokeswoman said employees will be placed at nearby stores and that the company is committed to reopening a store in downtown Palo Alto.
Nearby stores on University and Bryant Street -- not damaged by the fire and efforts to extinguish it -- are nonetheless closed due to police barricades.
Bullerjahn said the streets would be blocked off for at least a week.
Neide Hall, owner of Brazilian swimwear store Charmosa on Bryant Street, was distressed on Tuesday when police roped off her part of the block, along with neighboring boutique Vian Hunter.
The police "didn't give me any clue" as to when she could reopen, Hall said.
Additional businesses in the area could stay open, but are hurting indirectly from the fire because of reduced foot traffic.
On Thursday morning, the sidewalks were sparsely populated by pedestrians. People still sipped coffee and worked on their laptops at the Starbucks on University near Bryant, but Noah's Bagels, located on the corner, remained closed.
Some passersby earlier in the week, such as Jean Kotila of Mountain View, knew about the fire and stopped by for a peek. Others, such as Patty Wang, who works in Palo Alto, came to University Avenue at lunchtime unaware of the fire's aftermath and wondering why the street was closed off.
Medallion Rug Gallery Manager Mansour Farahabadi, located across the street from Gleim Jewelers, found the situation "very frustrating."
Though pedestrians could still reach his store, Farahabadi feared that police would extend the caution tape in front of his door.
Looking around at a handful of customers milling around Restoration Hardware earlier in the week, Acting Store Manager Rawlins Apilado said, "I'm very concerned about business. The longer it takes [to reopen the street], the more concerned I get."
"You're seeing bodies in here, so we're thankful to the customers for making their way through all of this," Apilado continued. But, he observed, "The traffic volume we normally have has dissipated a bit."
Across the street, Kan Zeman Restaurant Owner Abraham Khalil was glad to be able to stay open, despite diminished foot traffic on the block.
"At least we have electricity. We can work," he said, adding that some of the spectators had decided to stop off for lunch at his restaurant on Monday.
Looking on the bright side, Satura's Voight said a holiday other than Fourth of July would have been a lot worse for the specialty-cake business.
"Think if it was Valentine's Day," she said.
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