Boise & Garden City

Boise International Market gutted by fire; vendors mourn loss; community seeks to help rebuild

Flames swallowed nearly 20 businesses Saturday night after an accidental fire started in a kitchen trash can, the Boise Fire Department reported. No injuries were reported after the blaze.

The Boise International Market at 5823 Franklin Road serves as a multicultural center and business incubator. Vendors, most of whom are refugees, sold food, clothes, jewelry and other goods from India, Africa and the Middle East.

“Everybody lost their dream,” said Salam Bunyan, who ran the Middle Eastern restaurant The Goodness Land. “Everybody works hard and everybody lost everything.”

The fire was reported to emergency dispatchers at 11:45 p.m. Saturday. The building was fully engulfed when fire crews from nearby Station 6 arrived, so a second alarm was called, said Fire Capt. Brent Ho.

The fire did not spread through a wall shared with a laundromat, and the market building itself stayed standing.

“The girders, columns and rafters are intact,” Ho said. “They’ve been compromised but haven’t fallen to the ground.”

The next day, Thara Rita, who made her own brightly colored clothes for her shop Thara Fashion, couldn’t hold back tears when she stepped out of her car and looked at the hollowed-out market.

“I feel so bad. My hard work — all the things we sell. I lost it all,” she said.

Omid Mousa, who owned and operated Kahve Coffee, could barely speak when he first saw what happened.

“We’re still in shock. We’re still trying to make sense of it,” he said. “Hope to rebuild. Not sure.”

Video of the flames provided by Statesman reader Colin Eva:

Karen Hathaway and her husband, Terry, opened Joyful Tea together after retiring.

“We have put all of our retirement savings in this,” Hathaway said. “I totally feel for the refugees — just wonderful people. When we got the call very early this morning we were both just ... it took hours for it to even sink it. It looks like there’s pretty much nothing left.”

Lori Porreca and Miguel Gaddi, who launched the market, were out of town this weekend to get married.

Porreca got the call early Sunday morning, and the two canceled their wedding to rush back to Boise, assess the damage and help the vendors, she said.

This wasn’t the first time that fire hit this lot. An eatery called The Vietnamese Restaurant was in the building for nearly 30 years, until a fire in 2010. The cause was found to be malfunctioning kitchen appliances that ignited cardboard boxes.

The International Market opened in October last year and celebrated a grand opening in April.

Cecilia Rinn, who taught dance and ran Starbelly School of Dance at the market, had just recovered from surgery. She started teaching dance again last week, she said.

“(There) was so much energy and hope put into that space,” she said. “Every vendor in there is seriously hurting. I think everybody there is living hand to mouth.”

Most vendors had insurance. But Rinn was switching from a sublease to a lease with the market itself. She did not have coverage for her equipment, meaning it was a total loss for her.


Even as vendors mourned the loss of their market, many worked together to find a way to help everyone get back on their feet.

“Some people, this is their entire livelihood,” said Ryan Hansen who runs JBR’s BBQ at the market.

Hansen is on the market’s Vendor Council, originally initiated to develop ideas for mutual growth. Now the council is working to ensure the vendors can still put food on their tables while working out insurance claims and restarting their businesses, he said.

Hansen worked with two community members, Tracy Jennings and Kari Randel, to build a GoFundMe page called International Market Family Fund to help support the vendors.

Within 24 hours the page had already brought in about $20,000.

“We will be opening a bank account on Tuesday to collect the GoFundMe money and also other donations,” Jennings said in a text message. “I’m coordinating between the Vendor Council and community members that want to help. We will set up a board of trustees to develop an action plan and guidelines for distribution of the money.”