AFTERMATH OF A BLAZE: Where their Christmas tree once stood, the first-floor living room of Doria and Calavino Donati, who own Tipple & Rose, is a scene of devastation.
By Anne Levin
About 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, Doria and Calavino Donati were busy with customers at Tipple & Rose, their popular 210 Nassau Street tea parlor, when they got a call from a neighbor saying dark smoke was pouring out of their Rosedale Road home. Calavino rushed to the property while her wife, Doria, stayed behind at the shop.
“I was hoping it was something small,” Doria Donati said this week. “When I finally got through to her, I said, ‘Please tell me everything is okay.’ She said, ‘I can’t do that.’”
The back of their 1950s house was engulfed in flames. The top of the building was sheared off. According to Lawrence Township Fire Marshal Edward C. Tencza, the cause of the fire remains undetermined and is still under investigation.
Because there was no fire hydrant near the house, hoses had to be threaded together to reach a hydrant down the street. In the 20-plus minutes it took for the firefighters from Lawrence Township, Princeton, Hopewell, Ewing, Pennington Borough, West Windsor, Plainsboro, and Trenton to start working on the blaze, much of the building was obliterated.
“It’s devastating,” Doria said. “We’ve gone back every day trying to find anything we can salvage. It’s just overwhelming.”
Lylah Alphonse, a friend of Doria from her student days at Princeton Day School, quickly organized a GoFundMe fundraiser for the couple. As of Tuesday afternoon, $22,264 had been contributed. The Donatis do not currently have homeowners insurance, so the money is key to them getting back on their feet. The family includes two recently acquired puppies, who escaped the fire because they were in an attached apartment when the blaze broke out.
The family has been alternating bunking with friends and staying at hotels. “We’re cobbling housing together and looking for something more permanent,” Doria said. “You go through all the what-ifs — what if we had been there, could we have stopped it? But we were told it was very hot and very fast, and we might not have been able to get out.”
Since the fire, Tipple & Rose has been operating as usual. “We had some high teas on the books, so we had to come
back to work. And we are grateful for that,” Doria said. “We really needed a reason to get up in the morning.”
Back at the house, the couple have managed to salvage their dining room table, and the light fixture that hung above it. Remarkably, art work by employees, which hung on the walls of the house, survived in every room.
“But our own family pictures are gone,” Doria said. “Things like furniture can be replaced, but we don’t have things that are replaceable. We’re mourning and grieving those things that meant so much to us.”
The fundraising campaign is continuing. “If you’re in the Princeton area, please shop at Tipple & Rose so they can continue to pay their staff, keep the business alive, and generate and income,” it reads. “The online store isn’t open just now — they don’t have the staff to fulfill orders or the space to warehouse additional merchandise, but everything is available in the shop on Nassau Street.”
Visit www.gofundme.com/f/help-doria-and-calavino-tipple-rose for information.