Regular customers of Ruth Ann’s will have to get their morning coffee somewhere else for a while — it could take at least a month to repair the damage from a Wednesday night fire, the owner said.
Mary Heisey, owner of the popular eatery on Veterans Parkway, said Thursday she wasn’t sure when the restaurant would re-open. An electrical fire broke out in the restaurant’s kitchen at around 6 p.m. Wednesday. Heisey said most of the damage is isolated to the back of the kitchen, but there is water and smoke damage in other parts of the restaurant.
“It’s going to take a while — at least a month,” she said, waiting outside Ruth Ann’s with her sister, Lisa Kean, and long-time cook, Rosa Johnson.
Heisey spent the morning meeting with insurance investigators, as well as regular customers who stopped by to talk and help.
“The response has been phenomenal,” Kean said. A fund has been set up at Wachovia banks to help out the staff that will be unemployed while the restaurant is being rebuilt.
Ruth Ann’s boasts a diner atmosphere, both inside and out and serves mostly traditional Southern-style food during the breakfast and lunch hours. The restaurant’s Web site says it has been locally owned and operated since 1957.
Johnson, who has been working at Ruth Ann’s for about 40 years, said she was shocked when she heard news of the fire.
“Really at first I couldn’t believe it,” Johnson said. “My grandson said ‘Somebody called and said you don’t have to come to work in the morning.’” She called Heisey to make sure everything was okay and heard about the fire.
“I think we’re going to be all right,” she said. “We’ll build it back up.”
Heisey and Kean agreed. The building is old and in need of constant maintenance, but planning renovations is difficult, since the restaurant is open seven days a week. Heisey said the fire has forced them to stop and take a look at things they might want to change about the restaurant.
“It might be a chance to redo the restaurant, come back with a little more panache,” she said. “Hey, maybe I’ll get new curtains.”