River Region first responders, businesses, residents help out
By Terry Duffy
“Words cannot begin to express the pain we feel for our neighbors at Brickyard Pub and BBQ and Brickyard Brewing Company. Ken, Eric, Steve and the entire Brickyard family, we love you guys and will be with you every step of the way. Take care and God bless. #brickbybrick #lewistonstrong.”
That Facebook post by Lewiston businessman Tom Deal of Deal Realty aptly conveyed the feelings of the hundreds who stood by late Tuesday evening into early Wednesday morning and watched as first responders from throughout the River Region battled for hours to save the Brickyard/BBC complex on Center Street.
It was the third tragic fire at the 400 block of Center Street location over the past 48 years – the earlier ones being a 1972 blaze at what was then Schneider’s and a 2011 incident that damaged an upper apartment at the former Brio, now the location of the BBC. Investigations into the Tuesday incident continue, according to Lewiston No. 1 Fire Co. Chief Les Myers and Niagara County Emergency Services and Fire Coordinator Jonathan Schultz. Damages are estimated into the millions of dollars.
“One of the saddest days of my life,” commented Brickyard staffer Graeme Litt on a Facebook post. “All our work gone. What took years to build only took hours to destroy.”
Brickyard owners Ken Bryan and Eric Matthews and GM Stevie Matthews have already pledged to rebuild and return even better.
“I had to stand and watch four years of my life go up in flames,” said Stevie Matthews, who had one word for Tuesday’s incident: “Hell.”
“I poured everything I had into helping Eric and Ken make that place a reality and we killed it. I’m glad you all got to see it as it was, even for just a few years. S**t happens, you deal with it and move on. I don’t know how long it will take or in what form we will come back in, but you will see us again soon enough. I promise. …”
Joining BBC ownership in their challenges to rebuild are business owners, residents and interests from throughout Lewiston and the River Region, many who have already pledged their support. All said they wished to help out as a gesture of appreciation to the BBC ownership and staff for all they have done and continue to do for the community.
It’s a gesture that in a small way also acknowledges the Brickyard/BBC for its support of the River Region in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic and all this business has done for others in this crisis.
Despite all the ravages of Tuesday’s blaze, Brickyard’s #Lewistonstrong message remained prominent in its Center Street window Wednesday morning.
“This was more of a loss to our community than a bar, a brew house and great food,” said Pat Stack of Somewhere on Blairville Road in Youngstown. “The men and women and the bar staff are caring and community-minded, selfless people; have helped many local businesses through tough times without chains.
“When they heard Somewhere was opening, not only did they come and see us, they offered unlimited support and guidance. We were blown away. It is no secret that many of my employees were/are theirs at the same time. Their staff is well trained, honest and excellent in character. Please know that if there is anything we at Somewhere can do for you, it is yours and your staffs.”
Balloons were placed in front of the BBC. Community members already are planning fundraisers for the restaurant owners and staff.
Joining Somewhere was The Village Bake Shoppe in Lewiston, which posted on Facebook, “We are donating all proceeds of our Brickyard/BBC heart cutouts to the employees and staff of Brickyard Pub & BBQ & Brickyard Brewing Company. We love you guys and will be here every step of the way.”
Another Center Street business, The Orange Cat Coffee Co., announced this week it would be donating the proceeds of sales of its coronavirus masks to assist with the Brickyard rebuilding effort.
“We’re selling these quality masks right now with 100% of the proceeds going to the Brickyard Brewing Company. Last night’s devastating fire has hit our community hard and we will continue to do whatever we can to support our friends and neighbors,” Orange Cat posted on FB.
And on Wednesday, a “#brickbybrick benefit to support the Brickyard staff” was announced by patron Ryan Henderson of Youngstown, who created a GoFundMe page to enlist online donations to assist the many staffers affected.
“The evening of May 26th, 2020, a tragic fire erupted at 436 Center Street Lewiston, New York. The flames consumed two establishments that meant a great deal to the Lewiston community. The Brickyard Pub and BBQ and Brickyard Brewing Company has been serving up delicious food and beverages along with smiles and amazing memories for years,” Henderson’s FB post stated.
“This horrible incident has affected a lot of people. People that I personally care a lot about and who have done so much for this town. At this time these owners and employees need our help! So I am organizing an online event meant to bring us all together #LewistonStrong to help support these amazing people that have been supporting us throughout the years. This will be done through music, entertainment and shared stories of memories at one of these amazing places.
“All of our hearts are aching today along with the Brickyard family. We are here to help rally and do whatever we can to help build up the employees first and then the buildings back up Brick by Brick. We ask for all of your thoughts and prayers at this time for the firefighters and employees involved.
“Please stay tuned for more details as I work through this benefit and thank you in advance for your wishes and future generosity!”
As of Thursday, Henderson’s GoFundMe effort had generated hundreds of responses and raised $5,605. For those interested in assisting, Henderson’s page can be accessed at:
Henderson also created an alternate donation link at PayPal, accessible at paypal.me/pools/c/8purbxVEUn. His donation effort continues to Saturday, June 13.
In response, Steve Matthews said, “We are awestruck by the show of support and I seriously can’t thank you enough. From Y-town, Lewiston 1, Sanborn Fire, Ransomville Fire, Town of Niagara FD, Troopers, LPD … to many to single out. Buy all these people a drink please next time you see one. Absolute rock stars.
“A shout out to the majority of people who ever employed, both past and present who ended up staying the night to keep us company. I remember turning around and there was so many former staff and present staff standing in solidarity. It was impressive.
“The WNY brewing family, you’ve offered your brew houses, your fermenters, your ingredients, your canning lines, It’s taking everything I have to hold back tears thinking of your support and generosity. John, Tom, Chief Keith and Bob appreciate the hell of you all as do myself, Eric and Ken.”