Fire guts longtime Belmont Heights occult store Eye of the Cat

A Monday morning fire charred the inside of Eye of the Cat, a family-run occult store that has operated in Long Beach for more than 40 years. Two cats at the store also died in the blaze, according to fire officials.

Investigators are still trying to figure out what started the blaze, but it sparked around 9:40 a.m. Monday, according to LBFD Capt. Jack Crabtree said.

Two dozen firefighters rushed to Eye of the Cat, which is on Broadway just west of Redondo Avenue.

They forced their way into the closed store and were able to douse the flames within about 20 minutes, but not before there was extensive smoke damage to the interior.

Specializing in Wiccan and witchcraft-related items, Eye of the Cat has been selling spell kits, incense, herbs and magical oils since 1974 when Judith DeFrain founded it and later passed it along to her daughter Kelly Hernandez, according to a 2005 Long Beach Press-Telegram article.

Eye of the Cat’s owner holds her animals after a blaze at her business in the 3300 block of Broadway In Long Beach Monday. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

“The Eye of the Cat inventories is one of the largest supplies of occult items found under one roof,” according to the store’s website.

Monday morning, Hernandez and two family members were in sandals, wading through the charred and flooded wreckage to save what they could from inside.

The store was known for its small cast of black cats, which brought the store luck, Hernandez told the Press-Telegram in 2005. Two of the cats, Merlin and Belladonna, were still living at the store Monday when the flames started.

After the blaze, Hernandez held at least one them wrapped in a blanket as she sat on the sidewalk.

“They didn’t make it,” a family member later said before hugging Hernandez as she sobbed.

Long Beach firefighters mopping up after a blaze charred the inside of Eye of the Cat on Monday, March 9, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Long Beach firefighters mopping up after a blaze charred the inside of Eye of the Cat on Monday. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Hernandez’s daughter Emma said the family is now grieving the loss of their pets and trying to get the store back up and running.

“Thankfully we didn’t lose too much of our product,” she said. Some of it they can still sell, but the interior of the store will have to be redone, according to Emma.

The family is asking for help through a fundraiser on GoFundMe.com.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with more information about the fire and fundraiser.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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