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Chester County Press

Early-morning fire causes severe damage to Sovana Bistro and Nicholas Anthony Salon and Day Spa

01/03/2020 02:00PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

The future of two iconic Unionville institutions hang in the balance after an early-morning, two-alarm fire on Jan. 3 ripped through Sovana Bistro and Nicholas Anthony Salon and Day Spa in the Willowdale Town Center, causing considerable interior and exterior damage. No injuries were reported.

Crews from the Mo-Par-Lin and Longwood fire companies put out the blaze, which was determined to have started at about 2:19 a.m.

Video images of the fire taken at its peak showed flames shooting from the roofs of both establishments, and it has been reported that between 75 and 100 firefighters were on the scene to put out the fire, which Chester County Fire Marshal John Weer said was contained about 40 minutes after it began.

Assistance was also provided by the Avondale, Christiana, Cochranville, Fame, First West Chester, Gap, Kennett, Quarryville, West Bradford, West Grove, and Union fire companies, and by the Southern Chester County Medic Unit and Good Fellowship ambulance service.

In addition, representatives from Servpro of Oxford and Kennett Square provided fire and water clean up, which is scheduled to continue for as many as 10 days.  

Weer said although the fire is currently under investigation, it appears to have originated in the kitchen of the restaurant, and based on alterations and building design, he said the fire extended into the open attic area. Had the building been fitted with a sprinkler system, the damage from the fire would not have been as severe, Weer said, stating that there were not sprinkler system requirements required for businesses in East Marlborough Township at the time the locations were built.

“I am sure the insurance companies will be working with all of the business owners who were affected in trying to get these locations rebuilt, but until they get the engineers in there, no one knows for sure what timeline we’re taking about,” Weer said. “They will rebuild, but it may be a year before they come back and open.” 

Salon owner Anthony DiFrancesco said on the scene that he was awakened at home by a safety alarm on his phone, indicating what he thought may have been a front-door break-in to the salon. He immediately rushed to his home computer's safety camera, where he began to see severe plumes of smoke that were highly visible on the screen.

While the two businesses will likely spend the next several months helping to manage the remediation from the fire and assessing their next steps, the loss of both businesses will be a major blow not only to owners and employees, but to the local clientele who have frequented both establishments for the past several years.

Known for its “farm-to-table” cuisine and intimate atmosphere, Sovana Bistro became one of the region's finest and most well-known restaurants and social hot spots in Chester County, earning high marks from several food critics, including Craig LaBan of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Under DiFrancesco and his staff, Nicholas Anthony earned a reputation as one of the finest salons of its kind in southeastern Pennsylvania, featuring a full array of hair care, extensions, facials, nail care and other salon services. While DiFrancesco was speaking with insurance adjustment officials and Servpro staff, a small group of his employees stood nearby, surveying the damage.

“I don't know what to say,” said Kelley Carbone, who has been at the salon for 18 of the 22 years it has been in business. “It's just devastating for both the restaurant and us. We both have had so many years of being here.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email

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