Many of the regular early morning customers arrived at Westside Foods before daylight this morning to find it burned to the ground and surrounded by fire trucks. The eatery caught fire just before midnight Thursday.
"It's just heartbreaking," said Joyce Coleman. "This place has been here so long, you thought nothing could happen to it."
"When the call came across the scanner, I didn't want to believe it," said Tattnall County EMA Director Walt Rogers. "This place is something of an icon around here."
Rogers said the building's old wooden frame helped spread the fire beyond what the fire crews from Cobbtown, Metter and Georgia State Prison could fight.
Mary and Hugh Willamson own the hair salon next door to Westside. Hugh remembers the construction of the building in the late 1940's or early 1950's.
"It started as a grocery store and over the years, they sold less staple goods and focused on the restaurant," he said.
Cobbtown Fire Chief Larry Collins and his wife have owned the eatery for more than 12 years. Collins said he was grateful to the fire crews who came from out of town to help.
"I've done this for a lot of years, but it's definitely different when it's your own," he told WTOC.
The Williamsons watched through the night as crews battled the fire and kept it from spreading to their building. In hindsight, Rogers and others think a heavy, double bricked wall between the buildings helped. The wall was included in the construction because the salon was originally a bank.
Many said they are heartbroken to lose a favorite breakfast or lunch spot.
"People would stop in here, and if they stopped once they'd come back often," Hugh Williamson noted.
As for the owners, they're waiting to see what their insurance does before they plan their next move.
Thursday, May 23 2013 7:38 PM EDT2013-05-23 23:38:31 GMT
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