LAKE WYLIE -- On a cold Thursday morning, door propped open to the wind, Melissa Nguyen was just happy to be open.Nguyen, manager of Subway in Lake Wylie, is one of several workers in more than a half dozen stores at Bethel Commons shopping center hoping for business as usual this week. Subway re-opened Thursday following a March 9 fire at nearby Ultratan, in which no one was injured but several stores shut down after a man escaped a tanning bed that caught fire."It was a mess," Nguyen said of her store. "It was mostly smoke damage. We lost a lot of food."Stores such as Subway, Best China and Pizza Hut suffered smoke damage while stores closer to the fire, including Nail Gallery and Ultratan, also saw water damage from efforts to extinguish the fire.While several stores still smell of smoke, workers agree the cost could have been much worse had anyone been hurt."There's some damage, like the ceiling," said Prast Putro, waiter at Best China. "We had to change it. And some in the kitchen."Best China re-opened on Wednesday, after having the ceiling and air ducts cleaned, as well as inspections from the state health department. Business was a little off the first day back, but many people did stop by to see how the stores were doing, Putro said.Those people, some of whom tried to cross caution tape the day of the fire for a sandwich, led Nguyen to believe Thursday morning that business would pick up where it left off before the fire broke out March 9 afternoon pastLake Wylie Pilot's
press time."We had a lot of people stopping by, so that's a good sign," she said.Matt Ellis, manager at Pizza Hut, also re-opened his doors Thursday. Despite a slow crowd through lunchtime, it was "otherwise a normal day." No structural damage to the building should keep the store from business as usual moving forward, Ellis said."We're open," he said. "Everything's a go."Bethel Cleaners re-opened on Friday from what manager Becky Gardner called a "nightmare." All of the clothes needed to be recleaned, but the business is back to taking garments, she said Monday."I just hope people realize it isn't going to mess up their clothes," Gardner said of the damage.Food Lion, on the far end from the fire, never closed its doors to customers.Nail Gallery, beside Ultratan, still had a message up Monday morning referring customers to Nail Palace at nearby Bi-Lo shopping center, as a cleaning company continued efforts there to remove the smell and stain of smoke.Calls to Ultratan were referred to the company's corporate office in Greenville. The office said it is not releasing any statements about the fire or information about whether the store will re-open.Established in 1990, Ultratan is the largest privately owned tanning salon chain in the Southeast with more than 60 locations, including stores in Steele Creek, Gastonia and Fort Mill, according to ultratans.com.As for the businesses already open, employees hope to put the incident behind them. And, they thank the quick response of Bethel Volunteer Fire Department for keeping the fire from spreading farther."Perfect," Putro said of the Bethel response. "They came very fast."