Was it a grilled sea bass salad that didn’t sit right or an offensive stack of shortribs?
Whatever the cause, an arsonist lobbed a firebomb through the window of Chop Chop, a Smith Street grocery store early Monday, said chef and co-owner Chris Pfeifer.
The store doesn’t have any known enemies and had not received threats prior to the attack, a still-stunned Pfeifer said on Wednesday.
“We’re all shocked,” Pfeifer said. “I mean, it’s really a vicious type of thing. But everyone has been really supportive.”
Vicious not just to the store owners — who are working with their insurers to tally the total cost of the fire and clean-up — but also to the tenants of the apartments above the store, who could have been killed.
Nothing was stolen, but Pfeifer estimated about $50,000 in merchandise was lost in the bombing and subsequent blaze. The store sells gourmet cheeses and other specialty foods.
A clean-up crew of 20 was fast at work on Wednesday removing soot from the ceiling and walls in hopes of having the store ready for a weekend opening. Burned bar stools and plastic sacks of scorched groceries sat in the corner.
“It smelled strongly of gasoline,” Pfeifer said. “We have to repaint the thing — a six-month-old store.”
Surveillance footage from the inside of the store show the firebug smashing a window at around 3:30 am Monday, then walking to the back of the gourmet bodega, which is on the corner of Smith and Dean streets.
The intruder retreated back through the broken window after tripping the store alarm, then lobbed in some type of incendiary device.
The undaunted Pfiefer vowed to reopen without adding “ugly” garage-door gates to protect the windows.
“We’re really committed to what we’re doing and the neighborhood,” he said.
A steady stream of Cobble Hill residents peered in through the sooty windows on Wednesday and read a sign Pfeifer had posted to explain the closure.
“We at Chop Chop experienced a terrible act of vandalism,” the sign read.
An FDNY spokesman confirmed that the department suspects arson, based on the nature of the blaze. Sixty firefighters rushed to the scene, and had the fire under control in nine minutes, the spokesman added.
The investigation is ongoing.
— with Gersh Kuntzman