Yesterday, Caroline Spencer was walking along Franklin Street when she captured a horrifying sight: Chapel Hill’s beloved Med Deli was on fire.

caroline spencer tweet
Caroline Spencer stayed on the scene for hours, tweeting updates to thousands of people.


Caroline lives across the street from Med Deli. She quickly went into reporting mode and stayed on the scene, notifying the community that everyone, including owner Jamil Kadoura, was able to safely evacuate.

She verified that the fire started on the roof, and that firefighters from surrounding towns were called down to Franklin Street. She shared pictures, updates, and unique insights: her son has been working at Med Deli this summer. People responded to Caroline from all over Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the world.

After the smoke cleared last night, it was clear that the fire was devastating – for Med Deli and its employees, and for nearby institutions like Moshi Moshi and DB Sutton (and employees of those businesses). Water and smoke damage affected many businesses along the 400 block of Franklin Street.

Today, inspections are taking place, and the town and Chamber of Commerce convened to discuss ways to help Med Deli’s 81 affected employees. Other businesses are still assessing damages. (We expect more information about helping to come later this week and we will update this post and social media.)

Helping Med Deli employees

A fundraiser was launched to help employees of Med Deli. Med Deli has confirmed through their Facebook post and Instagram post that this is a legitimate fundraiser and that all proceeds will go to employees to ensure they remain paid.

Helping Moshi Moshi

The salon Moshi Moshi sent out a note to customers this morning, which said that their Chapel Hill location will be closed for repair and cleaning for the next three weeks. All Chapel Hill customer appointments will be honored at their Durham location (Golden belt campus.) They are asking customers to keep their appointment and add themselves to the cancellation list so that they can keep their books full. They also ask customers to follow them on Instagram and Facebook to help us spread information.

We spoke with Caroline about what she saw yesterday, and ways to help our Jamil and others get back on their feet.

First, what have you heard about fundraising for employees of Med Deli, Moshi Moshi, DB Sutton and the other affected businesses? How can our community help?

Council Member Jess Anderson shared a link to a fundraiser for Med Deli employees:

Note from TBB: We will add any additional verified fundraisers to this post.

You were reporting on the fire all day, via Twitter. Your tweets have been seen over 300,000 times. How did you first hear about the fire? (And how are you doing?)

We live half a block from Med Deli, my husband is a friend of Jamil’s and is his architect.  Our son works there. Our children basically grew up there. It’s a home for us.

For people who don’t know, can you describe what Jamil and Med Deli mean in our community?

It’s more than a restaurant and I think the community (worldwide) reaction to my updates demonstrates that Jamil makes every person feel like members of his family.  It’s not just the food. It’s the love that goes into the food.  It’s the way he treats his staff.  The way he gives back to the community in ways too numerous to count.

Your son and his cousin were both working at Med Deli this summer. How’s he doing?

They’re pretty upset – in shock kind of. They grew up at Med Deli basically. They love Jamil & the Med Deli crew and are just waiting to hear how they can help.

You mentioned that there was a light moment: when the hair salon Moshi Moshi was evacuated, they continued cutting a customer’s hair right on the sidewalk. Is there anything else you want to highlight?

The response to my tweets sharing the Med Deli story went far beyond what I expected. People from all over the world shared how Jamil catered their weddings, donated food to their fundraisers, made them feel welcomed.  One guy said Med Deli was always, literally his first stop in town when traveling here from Indiana.  I’ve got a tweet to share that’ll do a great job showing the depth and breadth of the love for Jamil and Med Deli. It came from halfway around the world:


We go through life and sometimes never know the real impact we’ve had on people.  Then something like this happens and it’s visceral.  The love for Jamil and his team.  Everyone stepping up to offer support – emotional and financial.  Jamil has made a huge impact on this community and far beyond and I hope he’s feeling the love from around the world.

As an aside, the Moshi Moshi employee was doing an amazing job – not just with the haircut but with keeping the customer calm, laughing about “you do what you have to do” and “I can’t get to my car anyway.”  A fun moment in the midst of the chaos.

In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....