Less than a week after a fire destroyed the gift shop and bar at Satchel’s Pizza, the restaurant’s owner thanked the firefighters who helped save the rest of his business Sunday.
Throughout the day, firefighters were walking into Satchel Raye’s restaurant for free food, drinks and desserts, an idea Raye’s wife gave him to give back to the local community.
Raye reached out to Gainesville Fire Rescue and the Alachua County Fire Rescue Services to spread the word.
“They work so hard, and they have to go into buildings that are burning up, it’s really an amazing skill set to have,” he said. “The only reason we’re open right now is because of what they were able to do.”
More than 30 firefighters attended, some of whom helped put out Monday’s fire, Satchel’s manager Wade McMullen said. Some firefighters stayed to eat, and others took pizza back to their stations to share.
“We’re just glad to give back to them in any way we could,” he said. “Food is the way we can give back.”
Three firefighters sat outside near Satchel’s iconic gutted van, which doubles as a table. Joe Walker, John Kalaf and Scott Robinson ordered pizza, soda and dessert and said they were appreciative of Raye’s generosity.
“It’s great that he recognizes the work we do and his willingness to reach out,” Robinson said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Kalaf and Robinson were on the first fire truck that arrived at Satchel’s on Monday night. Robinson said he could see the flames from the intersection of Northeast Waldo Road and Northeast 23rd Avenue.
“We could see the flames over the tree line, so we knew right away it was going to be a big fire,” Robinson said.
Despite spending more than five hours at the restaurant the night of the fire, Kalaf and Robinson still answered five more emergency calls before 8 a.m. Tuesday, Kalaf said.
“We didn’t sleep at all that evening,” Kalaf said.
Raye said the only reason his restaurant is still open and his employees have jobs is because the Gainesville firefighters did their job and did it well.
“Giving them free food today is nothing,” Raye said. “It’s the least we can do.”
A fireman stands in the frame of what was Lightning Salvage, shop at the back of Satchel's Pizza.