ROANOKE, Va. – For the first time in eight months Thursday, the sound of happy customers, not the sound of renovation, filled the Community Inn.
“We were going down the street and my wife looked in the window and said, ‘Oh, my God. There’s people in there.’ So in we came. She’s been craving a patty melt," longtime customer Nick Brash said.
“I jumped for joy when I saw people in here," Nick’s wife, Carol, said.
“It’s the central place for this whole neighborhood. Everybody comes here. You want to come down and see somebody at lunchtime, this is where they are," Nick said. "I haven’t gone out to lunch in the neighborhood for the past six months more than a couple of times down here because this has been closed.”
On Easter Sunday, the restaurant caught fire.
Owner Mont Morrow said there was never any doubt the restaurant would reopen, but he didn’t think getting the iconic eatery back in business would take eight months.
“It felt great to pull the plastic down and have people start coming in the door," Morrow said.
The fire is believed to have started by discarded smoking material.
The smoking section of the restaurant, where the fire started, has been opened up and smoking is no longer allowed.
“You’d walk through here and this was your smoking area. It’s kind of laid out the same," Morrow said, standing in the former smoking area. "The bathrooms sat further back and further over at the time because we had four bathrooms. Now we have two to be handicap accessible. The brick wall wasn’t there, the windows weren’t here.”
During the interview, Morrow kept a list in front of him of over two dozen businesses and people who helped the restaurant reopen.
“The Grandin Village, it’s like that. Everybody’s trying to help out. It’s amazing," Morrow said.
The bakery next door was also damaged by the fire.
It reopened in November.