Jul 28, 2014
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A Year After Inferno, Calabar Imports to Reopen

Washington Avenue gift shop completing renovations following fire at 806 Washington last June.

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A year after the fire that and next door, the clothing, jewelry and gift shop is slated to re-open.

Owner Atim Oton said she’s is glad to be back on Washington Avenue, but said the year-long wait for permits and renovations wasn’t a total loss.

“It has been a long wait, but a good time for reflection and re-organizing what's important and what is unnecessary in the business model we had. Great time to re-imagine and dream. Most important, we now have two stores—as we intend to keep the second one in Dumbo," she wrote via Facebook. 

Oton opened the small Washington Avenue shop with her mother, Heloise Oton in 2004, selling handmade items, clothing and art objects from over 40 African, Asian and South American countries. The store’s name comes from Heloise’s hometown in Nigeria, where Atim was born.

The business was popular, and Oton became active in the community, becoming co-chair of Community Board 8's economic development committee. 

Then, on June 4, 2011,  Oton received a 5 a.m. phone call about the fire.

“I called my brother and he picked me up, but you couldn’t go on Washington Avenue, so we ended up on St. Johns Place,” Oton . “But we couldn’t see whether anything had happened to the store, so we just waited around.”

The shop was heavily damaged and all of the windows, plumbing and electricity needed to be replaced.

Contractors are now completing work on the interior, and Oton hopes to open the first week in June.

The shop will have a similar feel, but Oton plans to sell more clothing and devote the store’s loft to home décor.

“We are glad to be back. But then, again, we never left...as our customers keep the faith in our business,” Oton wrote.

 

, 820 Washington Avenue;  www.​calabarimports.​com.

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