Fire devastates Mediterranean Deli

Chapel Hill Fire Department uses an extension ladder to enable firefighters to reach the blaze that may have started on the roof of Mediterranean Deli. Photo by Michelle Cassell.


By Michelle Cassell
Assignment Editor

UPDATE July 27: Added the latest fundraising figure, the other affected businesses and a letter from the deli.

CHAPEL HILL— Fire tore through an iconic Franklin Street eatery Saturday.

The blaze was reported at 2:30 p.m. at Mediterranean Deli, Bakery and Catering. The area was closed off as Chapel Hill Fire Department crews responded and battled the blaze. By 6 p.m. the fire was declared under control.

The westbound lane of West Franklin Street near Kenan Street was closed overnight as firefighters stayed on the scene. The eastbound lane reopened around 9:30 p.m.

Firefighters battle the fires with hoses aimed at  the deli’s roof on Saturday. Photo by Michelle Cassell.

One firefighter suffered a cut, was transported to UNC Hospital for treatment, and is expected to recover fully. Two other Chapel Hill firefighters were transported to the hospital as a precaution for potential heat exhaustion. There were no other reports of injuries.

Extension ladder fire crew employing techniques to keep the flames from spreading to other businesses. Photo by Michelle Cassell.

Police kept crowds back and spectators watched as smoke billowed out of the building’s roof. Owner Jamil Kadoura, his family, and staff escaped safely and could be seen weeping as firefighters acted swiftly to keep the blaze from spreading to other businesses.

Employees of Med Deli support each other while watching firefighters work. Photo by Michelle Cassell.

Alex Carrasquillo, a Chapel Hill Fire Department spokesperson, said the cause of the fire is under investigation. It was too soon to determine the cause.

According to Carrasquillo, businesses around the Deli are also being assessed for damage by the fire inspectors. Carrasquillo said the loss is more difficult because Med Deli is a staple of the town.

Firefighters entering the deli. Photo by Michelle Cassell.

David Sutton, owner of DB Sutton and Company, a hair salon located to the right of the Deli at 406 West Franklin Street, said, “This is a lousy day—a sad day in the neighborhood. I don’t know when I will be able to open again. I am grateful no one was severely hurt.”

“Our hearts are broken by the tragedy that befell Jamil, his Med Deli team, and the West Franklin Community today. We are grateful to know that everybody is safe,” Mayor Pam Hemminger said.

A GoFundMe campaign for restaurant employees raised $189,000 for employees as of July 27.

The deli has been a staple in Chapel Hill since Jamil and his wife Angela opened the business in 1992.

New Hope Fire Department, Carrboro, and other area departments assisted Chapel Hill Fire Department’s effort to knock down the fire. Photo by Michelle Cassell.

Town officials met Sunday to discuss how to support the businesses affected by the fire. In addition to the main damage at Med Deli, D.B. Sutton, Moshi Moshi, Simply Audrey and Tropical Smoothie suffered a mix of damage from fire, smoke and water. Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire yet.

A letter posted on the Deli’s website states the business will resume catering from a different location on July 31, asked for privacy for the family and points supporters to the fundraiser for employees. 

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2 Comments on "Fire devastates Mediterranean Deli"

  1. Marjorie OReilly | July 24, 2023 at 9:34 am | Reply

    Thanks Michelle Cassall for the great coverage. And your photos were so helpful in getting the scope of the devastation. Many of us are heartbroken.

  2. Stanley Nelson | July 28, 2023 at 4:29 pm | Reply

    I recently moved from Chapel Hiil to a senior living facility in Chesapeake Virginia. I was not aware of the fire at Med. Deli until I just read about it in the local journal. So very sad to learn of the news! Have had (and family) many fine meals at the MD over the several years living in Chapel Hill. Good to know everyone was able to get out safely.
    Hope for all the best for the Family everyone connected to the MD. They will be sorely missed to the Town. Hope they can Re establish their business soon!
    Stan Nelson

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