ATHENS, MCMINN COUNTY, TN. (WRCB)—Members of a small community in Athens celebrated the re-opening of a dining delight Monday afternoon.
Almost a year has passed since flames erupted at the Country Patch restaurant. Fire investigators determined faulty wiring in the attic sparked the blaze.
Owners Jimmy and Debbie Gunn were able to rebuild, thanks to insurance. Monday, they opened the doors of what most customers say, is more than just a place to eat.
"It's the people," Annette Williams said while enjoying lunch with her family.
"The memories this place holds, it's the people that make the difference," added Annette's granddaughter, Cathleen Baker.
For years, Annette Williams and her family have called the Country Patch a second home. Williams said the loss was so great, even her 4-year-old grandson realized what the fire had taken away.
"He said the Country Patch burned down and I'm not going to have any more fried chicken and I'm not going to get to ride their rides no more," said Williams.
And for the firefighters who fought the flames that day, this was more than just another fire.
"We saw it on one end of the spectrum and we were back to welcome her into business today," said Lt. Rick Woody with the Athens Fire Department. "We're glad she's back."
And she, Debbie Gunn, is glad they're back and said the familiar faces are the greatest part of her joy.
"It's like coming home to a reunion, it really is," said Debbie. "It's just so exciting to see the people."
Rest assured, while a new look was cooked-up for the community staple, some things will never change.
"The same love, the same—if you need us, we're here," Debbie said.
The "new" Country Patch, complete with steel beams and concrete floors, can be found at the same place it's been since the 1980s.
You can join the Gunns for a meal Monday through Friday from 11-7pm.
Chattanooga Police have identified the victim in a fatal shooting on the 1200 block of Cypress Street Court.
900 Whitehall Road
Chattanooga, TN 37405
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