Nick Zois spent the better part of the last 60 years readying 55 Washington St. in Bloomfield for new tenants.
Many business owners credit Zois, the owner of local commercial icon Roxy Florist, for making their business dreams come true.
But on the morning of his 89th birthday, Zois watched helplessly as his building burned.
"He's not your everyday landlord," said Jacqueline Apicella De Dios, who currently works in Montclair but worked on the second floor of the building at Bloomfield Center Alliance for many years.
"He's looking to better the community and bring in business that will make a difference."
Several tenants couldn't afford to open a store downtown -- but Zois always found a way to make it work, De Dios said.
On Tuesday, though -- when the fire came ripping through Heavenly Bites and Heavenly Flavors, Salvatore T. Alfano, PA, Fusella Counselors at Law, Kolby’s Place Barber Shop, Winfield Security and the Bloomfield Center Alliance -- there was nothing Zois could do.
De Dios spoke with Zois the day of the four-alarm fire.
"He commented on how he remembers painting the walls and putting in those windows," she said.
Nearly everyone in Bloomfield has gotten flowers from his shop, too, De Dios said.
Take Marijani N. Jones, a19-year postal worker.
"My husband and I started dating in 2010, said Jones of East Orange. "He would send me flowers often -- on my birthday, anniversary, or just because.
"And they would always come from Roxy."
Jones launched a GoFundMe for all of the businesses devastated by the blaze. She has been frequenting the barbershop, Heavenly Bites and several other businesses at 55 Washington St., developing relationships with almost all of the business owners.
So when she heard about the blaze, she knew she had to help.
"I'm just a community person," Jones told Daily Voice. "And I believe in service and giving back."
Bloomfield Window and Door operated out of 55 Washington St. up until six months ago, when they moved out.
Bloomfield Window owner Tony Sikora said Zois was a "great landlord" to him.
Although Sikora and De Dios are no longer in the building, their heart is with Zois and the downtown district.
"They're a family in Bloomfield," De Dios said.
"In Montclair, the blocks are each other's families but in Bloomfield, the whole downtown has each other's backs.
"I know everyone will support everyone -- but it’s heartbreaking to see."
Fire Chief Louis Venezia said the blaze remains under investigation.
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