He saved lives during an Edmonton apartment fire. Now he can't save his business
Riza Kasikcioglu's livelihood is for sale on Jasper Avenue.
The LED "open" sign on the door of Maximo's Pizza and Donair is dark, and a yellow piece of poster board taped to the front window advertises the sale of the shop.
Oliver Place apartment building sits across the street — it's the building where Kasikcioglu saved lives in January 2017 when he rushed inside to warn residents of a fire.
The Turkish immigrant was lauded as a hero, but shortly after the fire he was the one who needed saving when he was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour.
He said the removal of that tumour in December led to the unraveling of his business.
"I couldn't do it anymore because my pains were terrible — brain leaking and backache — all kinds of disasters," he said, noting how the incision on his skull hasn't fully healed.
Kasikcioglu has been suffering from back pain since he carried a woman out of the apartment during the fire. He said he'll undergo another surgery operation next year, but until then, he struggles to walk and takes medication to cope with the pain.
Kasikcioglu temporarily closed his shop to focus on recovering from surgery. But he was forced to re-open early in January because he needed the money.
'I'm worried about my family'
Those financial woes plagued him for months, despite the community's efforts to help out. A GoFundMe campaign raised $5,000 and a group of doctors donated about $3,000 to the business, Kasikcioglu said.
"It was just a temporary help. It couldn't help me," he said. "I survived another month, but still, I had to close the shop."
He has to pay about $4,000 in rent and utilities each month until August, or until the business sells. But he can't afford his professional or personal expenses.
"I am in hell right now. Because everybody's calling — all the credit card companies, phone, Internet," he said.
He has been telling all of those companies the same thing: "I am sick. I cannot pay anything. I don't have even one cent in my pocket."
Maximo's Pizza was Kasikcioglu's only source of income. He said he wants to find a desk job so he can keep the home where he lives with his wife and two children.
"I'm worried about my family. I don't care about my life," he said. "I am already dead."
And while the business might have died, his friend Sim Senol said selling was the best option, as running the shop alone made Kasikcioglu's health and financial problems worse.
"At this point, trying to keep this place open actually puts him in more debt every day, so it's better to minimize that impact so he can move on and potentially look for things ... he can do without causing further health problems," Senoi said.
Edmonton's Turkish-Canadian community is helping him find a new job, Senol said.
"It's better for him to focus on his own health and his family," she said. "It was time to move on."