09/01/10 — Restaurant fire damage has forced more repairs

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Restaurant fire damage has forced more repairs

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 1, 2010 1:46 PM

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Schlotzsky's Deli general manager Chris Rarick watches the repairs being completed in the interior of the store after a fire caused considerable smoke damage Aug. 24.

Damages caused by a fire last week at Schlotzsky's Deli on Berkeley Boulevard have forced the business to close temporarily while repairs are being made.

But general manager Chris Rarick is optimistic he might be able to reopen by week's end.

Standing in the middle of the dining room Tuesday morning, Rarick reflected on events of the past week. He said despite appearances, there was much to be thankful for.

"We are blessed that we were open (when it happened). Had we not been open, it would not be here. We would be gone," he said. "We didn't lose any food, none of the coolers went down. It was contained outside so it was just a smoke issue."

The fire broke out the evening of Aug. 24, shortly before 8 p.m. There were seven customers and three employees inside at the time, Rarick said.

The cause of the fire was a hot water heater malfunction. Initially contained in an outside storage area, vacuum fans pulled the fire upwards to the roof so that it was not readily visible.

But a customer noticed smoke outside and an employee evacuated the building, Rarick said. City fire trucks were soon on the scene.

"When they arrived and the exhaust fan was cut off, the fire dropped and the container in the hot water room put the fire out," he said.

Rumors spread faster than the fire did, said Rarick and his wife, Erica.

"We heard reports that it was gutted," he said, while Mrs. Rarick said several people had asked her about the "five-alarm fire" at the restaurant.

Most of the damage was the result of smoke, the couple said. But the tiles and insulation in the kitchen and dining room still had to be replaced, Rarick said.

"We have had to pull the whole ceiling out, insulation and everything, to get the smoke smell out," he said. "We had to change out the hot water heater."

"The decision was made (Monday) to pull everything out. We can't have (our customers) coming in and smelling smoke."

Fortunately, the 11-year-old business was insured.

"Insurance was Johnny-on-the-spot. They were here the next day," Rarick said.

Outwardly, the business appears the same. Rarick hopes customers won't get the wrong impression that the restaurant is closing.

"A lot of our customers don't know. If we can just let them know what's going on ... a lot of people think now if your doors are closed, you're shutting down. Our goal is not to let that happen."

The Rarick's son set up a Facebook page for the business late last week as a way to provide repair updates. Rarick said work is going fast and he hopes to be able to reopen as early as the end of this week.

For now, he's just thankful it was no worse.

"The main thing was that nobody was hurt and it was contained," he said.