The smell of smoke still lingered Tuesday afternoon as Satchel Raye, 48, and some of his employees, family members and friends helped clean up after a fire gutted Lightnin’ Salvage, an outdoor bar and gift shop at Satchel’s Pizza.
Raye’s message was clear as he spoke about the loss of the structure that represented 25 percent of his business: It is going to come back bigger and better.
“Our kitchen’s not gone,” he said. “We can take care of these employees, and we can make a plan.”
Gainesville Fire Rescue responded to multiple calls Monday night, the first coming in at 9:22 p.m., from passersby who saw huge flames shooting out of the restaurant. After about 30 minutes on the scene, the fire was contained, but the damage was done.
No one was injured, and the cause is under investigation, GFR Deputy Fire Chief JoAnne Rice said Tuesday during a press conference.
Video footage was being reviewed by an investigator, she said. No cause is known.
“It’s a severe loss,” she said. “This is an icon in the community. This speaks Gainesville.”
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When Satchel Raye got a call Monday night, he ran out of his house, hopped in his car and drove over to his restaurant. He left his wife, Caroline, staring after him in confusion.
He left without a word, she said. A few minutes later, her phone rang.
Part of their restaurant had caught fire, he told her. She rushed after him.
“I kept trying to tell myself, ‘Stay calm, stay calm,’” Satchel Raye said, recalling the previous night.
He was shaking as he drove over, unsure of what he would find. He had been through this before, he told himself. He could get through it again.
Rice said about 30 personnel from the fire department were on the scene four minutes after the first phone call.
In 2012, Rice said she had been training at a warehouse down the road from Satchel’s when they reported a fire, forcing 25 people to evacuate.
She said it was rare for a fire to strike twice in the same area, almost like lightning. Despite the loss, Rice said it could be an opportunity to grow and rebuild.
“I can only envision this being bigger and better,” she said.
By the time Satchel Raye got home at about 4 a.m. Tuesday, he still thought of his restaurant. Lying in bed, his heart raced as adrenaline kept him awake for hours. At about 6 a.m., he got out of bed.
He wanted to start rebuilding as soon as he could so they could open up the restaurant as soon as possible. By Tuesday night, an insurance adjuster had already cut them a check.
“We are really planning and hoping for a Friday opening,” he said. “It’s looking good.”
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With one hand on her hip, Judy Keathley shielded her eyes with the other as she peeked into the burned remnants of Lightnin’ Salvage.
As she stared, she traced the layout of the structure in her mind, imagining the rows of gifts, now charred.
“You kind of can’t believe it,” she said.
Keathley, who was in charge of buying items for the gift shop, rushed over as soon as she heard what happened.
She was still in shock, but already, Satchel Raye is planning the comeback, she said. Raye said he will give donations directly to Keathley and two other employees. All other expenses will be covered through savings and insurance.
“I really admire that,” she said with tears in her eyes. “It’s gonna be better than ever. I’m confident about that.”
On Dec. 5, a fire burned down Satchel Pizza’s gift shop and open-bar waiting area, Lightnin’ Salvage Enterprises. Now, owner Satchel Raye is working to rebuild it and hopes to reopen it by December.