Dragon Flowers on Bernard Street went up in flames late Monday night, leaving the flower shop owned by Tamey Lau without a home.
She said that when she got the call, she biked to her shop in her pajamas to discover she’d lost everything in little more than a half-hour.
Still, Lau said she’s thankful only her business was heavily damaged by the fire.
Within about a day of the Facebook page being set up by Nora Butler Burke and friends, $11,000 and counting had already been collected for Lau.
“She’s really institutional — not just to Bernard Street, but to the whole neighbourhood,” Burke said on CBC Montreal's program Daybreak this morning.
Dragon Flowers has been in business for over a decade.
According to Burke, Lau is a mainstay of a neighbourhood community that’s rapidly changing due to gentrification.
Lau has resumed selling flowers outside her boarded-up storefront, with many of her regulars stopping by to donate, buy flowers and just check in to see how she's doing.
Former Mile End resident Connie Burcheri still buys her flowers from Lau, and stopped in this morning.
Lau refused to keep the change as per the customer's instructions, but she insisted.
"Shut up. I'm Italian, do what I tell you," Burcheri joked. "Keep it!"
Other customers vouched for Lau's presence and spirit, one calling her "the soul of the neighbourhood."
In addition to the online fundraiser, local bar Royal Phoenix is organizing a fundraiser next week.
Other residents and business owners are rallying behind her, as well.
Lau is touched by the outpouring of generosity.
“I cannot believe Mile End,” Lau said. “Their hearts are so big.”
She said a group of children brought their piggy banks to her and insisted she take their money.
“Money, for me, is not important, but from all the neighbourhood, it comes from everywhere, the support,” Lau continued.
“This kind of support, makes me… I can stand up again, I can be strong again.”