LAKE WYLIE — Lunchtime diners filled every table at Cafe 49 as the restaurant re-opened last week following a March 27 fire.
“Everyone has been so excited to open,” said owner Jim Roupas of his employees. “How many people are coming in here today, it’s incredible.”
Customers shared just as much enthusiasm.
“I missed this place a lot,” said Lenore Berryhill of York, saying she and husband Berry eat at Cafe 49 every day. “It’s kind of like another home.”
She said it’s the variety of home-cooked meals, good value, friendly service, family-friendly atmosphere, “everything about it,” that keeps them coming in.
“It’s also the only place with a big choice of vegetables,” she said.
First-time customer Larry Adams, who joined River Hills/Lake Wylie EMS as a paramedic in April, was impressed by the service, food and atmosphere.
“It’s just a good place to eat,” he said. “I’ll be back, and bring my wife.”
Squad members regularly dine at the cafe. Lee Rowley, emergency vehicle operator, said he “suffered” while the restaurant was closed.
“I have really missed it,” he said.
Berryhill said she and her husband, a retired firefighter, were dining at the restaurant the night of the fire. Just after 7 p.m. March 27, a fire began began outside the 4516 Charlotte Highway restaurant that reached the ceiling before anyone inside noticed. About 70 customers and employees evacuated, all safely. The responding fire inspector said the fire started in an outside column and burned upward to the attic.
“The cause of that fire is listed as accidental, due to carelessly discarded smoking material,” fire inspector Lou Jarvis said.
Fire damage to the building cost about $80,000 for repair and replacements, Roupas said. He said while the column has been replaced and the exterior will get a new coat of paint, the interior is “new but the same.” The restaurant has a new ceiling, new kitchen and the dining area and bar have undergone restoration work.
He credits his wife, Mary, “who probably slept down here four nights,” with getting the place reorganized and tidy.
He’s also grateful for employees who waiting during the five-week down time.
“These are my recipes but I’m only as good as the people working with me,” Roupas said. “Our employees stuck it out with us.”
Brandy Hager, a Cafe 49 server for four years, said it was worth the wait.
“It was hard, but the customers and employees are great,” she said, adding she was able to fill in a few weeks at another restaurant owned by the Roupas’.
With the re-opening of the 6-year-old restaurant, Roupas said “This is a new beginning for us.”
That includes new menu items, like more Mexican dishes and chargrilled seafood and steaks, as well as draft beer added at the full-service bar. It could also include games in the back field, like cornhole and Wiffle ball tournaments, as well as entertainment on the patio.
Roupas said he was overwhelmed by the community support from people stopping by to a gesture from a fellow restaurateur. Roupas said he took employees to eat after the fire at T-bones on the Lake. ‘When I went to pay, I was told it was taken care of,” he said. “That’s so special.”
He also gave kudos to responding fire units – Bethel Volunteer Fire Department as well as Steele Creek and Clover fire departments – saying they were n the scene in less than 10 minutes.
“I want to thank the Lake Wylie community for all your support, since the fire at our cafe,” Roupas said.
Catherine Muccigrosso • 803-831-8166