Grumpy’s vows to rebuild, rebound and return

Popular Middleburg diner to be closed for four months following fire

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 1/26/22

MIDDLEBURG – Soot was streaked across Dell Hoard Jr.’s face as he slowly, methodically tried to take inventory of the damage at his Grumpy’s Restaurant.There was so much to process. …

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Grumpy’s vows to rebuild, rebound and return

Popular Middleburg diner to be closed for four months following fire

Posted

MIDDLEBURG – Soot was streaked across Dell Hoard Jr.’s face as he slowly, methodically tried to take inventory of the damage at his Grumpy’s Restaurant.
There was so much to process.
Portions of the drop-ceiling, mixed with water from a Clay County Fire Rescue hose, laid clumped on the floor like a child’s paper mache project. Light fixtures dangled from the walls and ceiling. Except for some blue plastic trays that melted on a shelf and hung like stalactites, the rest of Grumpy’s was cloaked in complete blackness. And uncertainty.
There was so much to do, and Hoard had a difficult time finding a place to start.
“You’re never ready for this,” he said. “Even when you hear how it’s going to be and then you see it, it’s hard to take in, hard to talk about.”
The first call came in at 7:50 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 19. Despite sending three engines, a ladder truck, three rescue squads and a water tender truck, by the time CCFR got there, it was too late.
Since the restaurant closed nearly six hours earlier, nobody was injured. It also meant the fire was able to ravage the building before an employee at a neighboring store smelled smoke.
Hoard said the fire will strengthen his resolve to re-open – and to reconnect with a loyal and friendly group of customers.
“We will open back up. Some places can’t make this,” Hoard said. “We are going to survive. We are going to make it back up. And I know the community will be behind us. I don’t know how long this process is going to take us right now, but we’ll be back.”
Rebuilding is expected to take as long as four months. Until then, many of the 41 employees who were displaced by the disaster will be worked into the schedules at the Orange Park and Saint Johns locations. Regardless, all will receive a paycheck until the doors reopen Grumpy’s CEO Daniel DeLeon said.
“We don’t want to lose anybody,” Dell Hoard Sr. said. “They are like kids to me. They’re like daughters and sons to me. We have a wage policy, but it’s not going to be what they made. Our servers rely on their tips. We’ll have to do what we can to make sure everybody is taken care of.”
An electrical problem is suspected of being the source of the fire, DeLeon said.
“The hood (in the kitchen) was intact,” he said. “It looks like it started in the back, probably in the wall near the dishwasher.”

The Hoards met with their employees across the street at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office substation the next afternoon. Many cried and hugged as they entered the building. Most were smiling when they left after learning their jobs – and their salaries – were safe.
“That’s the toughest part right now. We have almost 50 employees and we have a long build ahead of us,” Hoard said. “We’re trying to figure all that out right now. You go through all this time you get a group that jells well. We have a good group of girls and guys. Now you just worry. You worry about what’s going to come. You make sure you have your staff in place. We plan to keep all of them. The biggest thing is making sure our staff knows this is their home. Nothing’s going to happen to them.”
Hoard said he hopes the community will embrace his employees, too.
“Anything they can do to help, even if that means reaching out and telling them they have their backs.
“This will be fixed. It’s material stuff. But this is family.”

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