This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

EL CAJON, Calif. – Business owners returned to decimated shops Wednesday in an El Cajon strip mall after an early morning blaze caused heavy damage for some and forced evacuations in the immediate area.

“I’m really, really upset,” business owner Mina Ibrahimi said. “It’s a disaster. It’s just—the fire took everything like all. It took the stuff and it took all the memories with it.”

Those memories went up in smoke after a fire broke out about 3 a.m. at the shopping center on Broadway near Ballantyne Street. Firefighters worked to douse the flames that officials say spread from one business to three others, largely burning them down to their foundations. The flames also forced neighbors to evacuate their homes on nearby Birchwood Lane.

But its impact was felt by Ibrahimi and her family when their shop Mina Jewelry was lost in the fire. They’ve been selling jewelry from back home in Iraq for the past two years.

“Like a store for (the) Middle Eastern community,” Irahimi said. “For all communities to be honest. We have a lot of cultures coming around and we were very happy to be the first store in the U.S. starting this kind of business.”

Another business affected was Juanita & Ramiro’s Beauty and Barber Salon that has been serving the community for nearly 18 years.

“It’s devastating,” salon owner Juanita Godina said. “First of all, the pandemic was devastating because they closed us down for six months. I thought we weren’t going to make it. Never thought that this would happen.”

Other businesses destroyed included a smoke shop and the Kabul Star Restaurant. But both owners say they hope to rebuild and continue serving their community.

“I got to keep doing hair,” Godina said. “We have a lot of clients. We love them too and we hope that they follow us.” 

“Want to say we love you and we’re gonna miss you for a while and we’ll try our best to come back,” Ibrahimi said.

Investigators were at the strip mall Wednesday afternoon to determine the origin and cause of the fire.

For those