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Top Stories 2019: Braun Seafood Company rebounds after storage building fire

When the fire was finally out, when the damage was surveyed later that day, Ken Homan and his employees at Braun Seafood Company were, in a very profound way, relieved. They could have lost so much more — maybe the entire building and, with it, the iconic North Fork business founded in 1928. Instead it was a storage building at the rear of the property on Main Road in Cutchogue that was destroyed by the early morning blaze on June 12.

When the firefighters from Cutchogue and several surrounding departments had finished their work and were rolling up their hoses and putting away equipment, Mr. Homan’s son Cody, standing in the parking lot, the air smoky and acrid, summed up the feelings of the other employees: “We will reopen as soon as we can. We will rebuild. We will be better than ever.”

The fire at Braun’s — a North Fork institution where Mr. Homan’s father, Jimmy Homan, now in his early 90s, still works after many decades — was one of the major stories covered by The Suffolk Times in 2019. In so many ways, Braun Seafood is the North Fork, representing the great bounty of our bays and surrounding salt water, but also holding the livelihoods of countless fishermen and baymen.

Braun Seafood — and the region — dodged a bullet that day. Losses were held to a minimum, in large part because two of the company’s biggest refrigerated trucks were returning from the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, full of fresh seafood, at the time of the fire.

And the fire brought out the best in the North Fork community, with businesses donating ice, freezer space and food to sustain the staff and firefighters. A few days after the fire, while driving home, Ken Homan turned on the car radio and heard Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Some blessings come out of nowhere. He never felt so lucky.

Photo caption: The aftermath of the early morning fire. (Credit: Erika Peters)