NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Bronx deli is trying to recover after being destroyed by fire earlier this month.

It’s getting financial help and community support as it takes steps to rebuild, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported Sunday.

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CBS2’s tour of what was left of Pelham Bay’s El Tropical Bodega & Deli was one sweeping view of fire-gutted surroundings.

Almost one month after the structure, livelihood and financial future of owner Odalis Rodriguez was destroyed, demolition crews have pulled out the deli counter, rows of shelving, almost everything.

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On Nov. 2, Rodriguez closed up His East Tremont Avenue store, and got halfway home before he was summoned back by neighbors who noticed smoke.

He reopened the metal gates to an inferno.

When asked if he was in shock, Rodriguez said through a translator, “They had to hold him up.”


Aiding with the translation was Fernando Mateo of the United Bodegas of America. The group raised $35,000 to help Rodriguez rebuild.

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“This check here will get them started, will get the contract signed and get the contractors in there,” Mateo said.

“Thank you so much for everybody in the community,” Rodriguez said.

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Rodriguez is a married father of two, who came to New York City in 1992 from the Dominican Republic. He worked in various supermarkets until he raised enough money to buy his very own bodega, five years ago.

His daughter, Eliany, started a GoFundMe page and said her hardworking, essential-worker dad is her hero and a hero to the neighborhood.

“I know he was hurt. This is like his life’s work here. He didn’t show it to us because he wants to be strong for us,” Eliany said.

What caused the fire is a mystery. The investigation is ongoing.

The bodega was packed with product that became fuel for the fire. That’s why everything quickly went up in flames, Carlin reported.

“First, we were in shock and then we just started crying. We live off this. This is how we get our food. This is how we pay our rent and it’s just heartbreaking,” Eliany said. “I just believe God does everything for reason. He wouldn’t give us something that we can’t handle.”

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So a family rebuilds, with a helping hand from the community to get El Tropical back where it belongs in 2021.