BROOKLYN - Several stores were damaged, but no serious injuries were reported after a fire tore through part of a popular Mill Basin shopping center Sunday.

Firefighters believe the fire at the Avenue U strip mall began in La Villa, a pizzeria, as employees were preparing to start the day. The fire may have started above the pizzeria's ovens before spreading to other stores.

Fire officials say it's a good thing more customers weren't shopping at the time of the blaze. Residents describe the shopping center as extremely popular.

"It's the focal point of the neighborhood," says resident Louis Corbo. "Everyone comes here and eats here ? every Saturday night it's loaded up with people from the neighborhood."