VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Store after store was wiped away by a fast-moving fire in one Long Island community. Owners who spent years building their businesses lost them in a moment’s notice.

A row of mom and pop stores on West Merrick Road in Valley Stream was charred, as merchants began to assess their losses.

In Bobby Devivo’s case, it was a 30-year investment in a pharmacy. The store has been there since the 1950s, and he began working in it as a teen. Now he’s the owner, and he said that he lost everything.

“It’s pretty much done,” Devivo told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Thursday. “It’s pretty incinerated in there.”

The fire began just before 11 p.m. on Wednesday at Merrick Dry Cleaners, and it quickly spread. A dozen shops were damaged and four of them are completely destroyed.

Around 100 firefighters worked to contain the blaze and managed to save some lifelong investments. The luckier ones just have smoke and water damage, and they hope to reopen quickly.

“It’s very devastating,” store owner Vincent Sinclair said. “If it wasn’t for the fire department we would have all been burned out, and all the businesses would have been gone.”

The rush is on to board up and save what can be salvaged.

One computer store is still standing, but the merchandise was soaked, leaving owner Israel Samety trying to find the strength to rebuild.

“I have no choice,” Samety said. “As long as you have life, you have to keep on going.”

No one was injured, and devastated shopkeepers took comfort in that. The fire was not considered suspicious, but investigators have not yet pinpointed the cause.

Devivo said he will try to find a new temporary location so that employees can keep their jobs.

Just horrific that an owner can lose a business like that in the blink of an eye. Sound off with your thoughts and comments in the section below…

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