An Elmwood Avenue coffee shop that had been the target of arson threats burned down in a two-alarm fire before dawn today, and the owner had to be rescued from his third-floor apartment.
Lon Coldiron was being treated in the Erie County Medical Center emergency room late this morning, after firefighters led him down a ladder from the first-floor roof at "Coffee &," at 718 Elmwood Ave., just south of Breckenridge Street.
Firefighters responding to the first alarm at 5:09 a.m. saw heavy flames shooting from the second floor and Coldiron standing on the first-floor roof, above Chick's Barber Shop.
"He had no way out," Battalion Chief Dan Kunz said at the scene. "He was trapped. So he came out onto the roof."
Coldiron apparently had gone out the third-floor window and down the fire escape to the first-floor roof.
Firefighters from Engine 37 put a ladder up to the roof and led him down.
Harvey Barnes, an employee who helped Coldiron close up at about 12:30 a.m. today, stood across the street from the burned-out shop and talked about the threats.
"For the last several months, we've been receiving these phone calls about a fire," he said of the threats from an unknown male. "He would disguise his voice and say he was going to burn the place down."
Barnes said that Coldiron, who had become more concerned about the threats as they became more frequent, had no idea who would want to burn down the shop or why.
Fire officials sounded a second alarm at 5:29 a.m., after they had a difficult time getting to the third floor of the 2 1/2 -story building. Firefighters did manage to keep the fire from spreading to the buildings on either side -- Cecelia's Ristorante on the south side and the closed-down Feel Rite Food Market on the north. Only about a foot or two separates the coffee shop building from each of its neighbors.
Late this morning, fire officials requested emergency demolition for 718 Elmwood, which includes the barber shop. Damage was estimated at $300,000.
The cause was listed as suspicious.
Fire investigators also said two dogs were rescued from the fire. A third dog was killed in the blaze.
Coffee & apparently opened last year, at the site of several former restaurants, including Sequoia, Reginald's and Upstairs Downstairs.
In a September 2003 "Cheap Eats" review in Gusto, Coffee & received a rating of three pennies out of four.
"So does Elmwood need another coffee shop?" the reviewer wrote. "When it's customer-friendly with minimal noise, affordable prices, good food and friendly help that's actually helpful -- all qualities of Coffee & -- the answer is yes."