CHICAGO (CBS)– An overnight fire on the Southwest Side near Midway airport destroyed a catering business that served meals to more than a dozen senior centers.
The fire started around 11:30 p.m. Thursday at Georgis Catering, at 6339 S. Central Ave. Heavy smoke and flames were seen shooting through the roof of the two-story building as firefighters poured water on the blaze.
Crews spent several hours battling the flames, and even had to come back after it had been put out, when it rekindled around 11:30 a.m. Friday.
“It wasn’t just a simple smoke in the kitchen. The whole building was engulfed,” said Justin Gilliam, who lives next door.
An overnight fire tore through a catering business on Central just SW of Midway. Spoke to an employee who says they provide 2,000 meals a day to seniors in surrounding suburbs through Catholic Charities and other senior centers. About 35 employees work here. @cbschicago pic.twitter.com/r2xrDsC8r5
— Jackie Kostek (@JackieKostek) January 27, 2023
Gilliam said he woke up to the sound of the smoke alarms at Georgis. He’s grateful for a neighbor who started knocking on everyone’s doors, telling them to get out.
“Frank, he’s the hero,” Gilliam said. “He beat on the door for the first time for everybody.”
One firefighter was taken to a local hospital. The building is a total loss.
Georgis Catering is a family-owned business that was started in 1946. Georgis Catering provides 2,000 meals every day to seniors through Catholic Charities and other senior centers in the surrounding suburbs. The business also provided meals for private planes leaving from Midway Airport.
“They’re quite busy. Every morning, I see them, they’ve got four or five trucks in the back loading up food,” Gilliam said. “They do senior meals. They do airport meals. They do quite a bit of stuff over there. It was a thriving company. A lot of people worked there, too.”
A longtime employee told CBS 2 the 17 senior centers which rely on their meals have been impacted by the fire.
“We do whatever we can for whoever,” said the employee, Becky. “Our world just went up in flames.”
She said the owner was already saying this morning that he hopes they can get into a nearby building quick to keep the business running and provide meals.
“It’s sad,” manager Jose Martinez said. “The good thing is everyone is alive, but I feel sorry for the seniors, you know, not getting their food today.”
One employee said 35 people worked at Georgis. Workers who woke up to news of the fire overnight came to see it for themselves.
The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.