CHICAGO (CBS) — “We will rebuild.” That’s the message from the owners of a popular restaurant in Blue Island.
The 100-year-old building that was the Maple Tree Inn was destroyed by fire early Friday morning.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli talked to the owners and the employees and has the story.
Flames ripped through one of the most celebrated southern restaurants in the nation.
Katie Orr is the co-owner along with her husband, and is the daughter of the venerable eatery’s late founder.
“While we are devastated emotionally by this tragedy, we want to assure everyone that no person was hurt in the fire,” she said.
Orr and her husband were inside their apartment above the restaurant when they heard a loud bang at around 2:45 Friday morning.
“A few minutes later they were awoken by their dog and their smoke detectors going off,” said Blue Island Fire Chief Dan Reda.
A quick look at the rear of the business and it was clear their life’s work couldn’t be saved.
“They evacuated the building. They called us,” said Reda.
The Maple Tree’s home-cooked creole-Cajun cuisine helped the more than 40-year-old business earn recognition from Open Table as one of the top 50 southern style restaurants in America.
Tom Hecht is a longtime chef.
“It’s just devastating. It’s the only word I can think of,” said Hecht.
He heard about a fire on Olde Western on the radio and rushed over hoping it wasn’t his workplace.
“It’s like a nightmare I wish I’d wake up from,” said Hecht.
Orr had a message for Hecht and the businesses’ other employees.
“Our team of employees is one of the best ever assembled in our 43 years of business and we will rebuild around them,” said Orr.
And perhaps around the restaurants famed bar which hails from the time of the 1893 World’s Fair and according to the mayor, may be be saved.
“We’re bringing the Maple Tree back,” said Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas.
The building had just been renovated and they were gearing up for a huge barbecue and bluegrass festival this weekend.
As for injuries, two firefighters were slightly hurt but both are OK.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.