Built from scratch and now in ashes, a family has been left without their livelihood after a suspicious fire destroyed their shop on Thursday morning.

A fire gutted two shops at 3.25am and caused smoke damage to others at the Selwyn Heights shopping complex on the corner of Old Quarry Rd and Kokako St.

For some, Bula Takeaways was their go-to takeaway shop but for the Reddy family, it was their dream.

"We have lost everything, there is nothing worse we could have lost," co-owner Ashmi said.

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She said it was the reason the family moved to Rotorua from Auckland was to bring the Fijian-Indian specialty food no one else offered.

"All of our hard work and whatever we could save from wages we put here," she said.

Their passion was painted into the now charred walls and the family made the empty space their specialty takeaway shop while working part-time to make their dream come true.

It was a dream that opened in February and now lies in ashes.

"This business meant everything to us."

Ashmi worked as a caregiver and had reduced her hours to support the thriving family business, but this would now be their only source of income.

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"We were relying on our shop and the shop was doing good ... it's a big loss to us."

As tenants without insurance, they were still coming to terms with what the future would hold.

In 2008, the family moved to Auckland from Fiji where they owned a dine-in restaurant.

For chef Mukesh, Reddy's husband, cooking was his passion and arriving at the burnt-down shop on Thursday morning left him feeling "broken".

"Everything was just gone overnight, we woke up and thought we were going to run it and came here and there was nothing left."

In a state of disbelief, he said he would see what could be salvaged "and then start again".

Rotorua was no accident - it was Mukesh's dream and they chose the city to bring the Fijian cuisine no one else in the area offered.

The time and place their shop would open again was unclear and he did not know where he would work in the meantime.

Their daughter Katie, 11, was the lively face of the business, serving customers, handling cash and helping with stock after school and most evenings.

"It's hard. We can't really show our tears ... we're at a stage where we need to support each other," she said.

Despite their devastation, Ashmi said with adamance they had not lost hope - it was something that had happened and something they will overcome.

They all said the support and messages from customers and the community was what was holding them up.

Their neighbour and friend Mardia Ryan could not believe something like this would happen to people who put "so much hard work, time, money, everything" into their business.

The family had the shop under a two-year lease and now waited to come to an arrangement with the landlord.

The other shop that caught fire was barber Specific Cuts.

A police spokeswoman said the fire was being treated as suspicious and no arrests and the investigation was ongoing.