officially reopened Monday, less than five months after and nearly took down the entire building.
On the surface, the renovations appear to be minor. There are new carpets and a fresh coat of paint. Handicap ramps have been added. But all the paintings have been hung in exactly the same spots they were before. The most extensive changes were made to the kitchen, which has been redesigned to make better use of space and upgraded with new equipment.
Kitchen Manager Sean Tremble credited the hard work of a team of local contractors — who also happened to be regular customers and friends — for the quick turnaround. Tremble described the process as being like "getting the band back together" as the entire group had not been together at once for a long time.
"It was great that we could keep it local," Tremble said. "We didn't want to go out to the giant nameless, faceless construction companies."
Tremble also credited the fast response of local police and fire fighters, whose quick work prevented the entire building from being destroyed. If it had burned for five more minutes, they would have been rebuilding instead of renovating, Tremble said. The restaurant hosted its contractors and local fire fighters last week to thank them for their hard work.
There has also been an outpouring of support from the community as residents called to check on the progress. Some even donated money, such as the daughter of two former emplyees who ran a lemonade stand and donated the money she made to the restaurant's renovations. Tremble said the community's response was the main motivation to reopen as quickly as possible.
"If nobody came out to support us, what's the point of reopening? There are so many people that were vested in this because we've become part of the fabric of their lives," Tremble said.
The first customers back in the restaurant last week were former Mayor Skip Kelley and his wife.
"It was just so fantastic to be back in there again," Kelley said. "You'd hardly know they had a fire."
Over the last week, the restaurant has attempted to quietly reopen the business, but they had about 250 dinner customers on Saturday and Sunday, Tremble said. He said he hopes patrons will be patient as the restaurant's staff gets used to the new equipment and layout. Owner Lee Tremble said he expects business to be back to normal soon.
"We're starting the next 40 years," Lee Tremble said. "The first 40 were easy — let's see how hard the next 40 are."
Until St. Patrick's Day, the restaurant will be continuing its Oktoberfest celebration, which was interrupted by the fire. The Iron Horse will be holding a grand reopening on March 21, which is also the restaurant's anniversary.
"It's going to be an extravaganza," Sean Tremble said. "We're not positive what it's going to be yet, but it's going to be something that the faithful followers will not forget."