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. …
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.”
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