RINGGOLD, GA. (WRCB) - It's been 20 months of rebuilding in Ringgold, after the April 2011 tornadoes ripped through the town, destroying dozens of homes, schools, churches and businesses.
Most businesses have re-opened one by one, and now another, as work on the new Krystal begins.
It's one of the last ones along Alabama Highway, and it almost didn't happen.
Residents say it's a welcome sight for the town's rebounding economy.
Demolition is officially underway at what used to be the convenience store The Pantry. It will now be home to the new Krystal.
Ringgold residents and other businesses say it means a lot to see how many businesses are rebuilding along Alabama Highway after the storm.
An EF-4 tornado ravaged Ringgold, reducing dozens of buildings along Alabama Highway to just a concrete slab.
"After the tornado, it was just a disaster area," Katie Beach says.
That's still what the Krystal looks like, but a bulldozer is a welcome sight to locals like Katie Beach, now learning this old convenience store will soon be the new Krystal.
"I said yes! I was excited," Beach says.
And each time another business builds back, the Holiday Inn Express gets excited, too. It was one of few hotels left standing after the storm.
"Just waiting for everything to get back up and cause a lot of people would come in and be like what's around and I'd be like, well there used to be restaurants and stuff around, but now what do we have," Holiday Inn Express employee, Yesenia Acuna says.
McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, Hardee's, they're all back in business, along with a new Tigermarket that opened on a tornado-ravaged lot a couple weeks ago.
"It has been helping. We've been getting a lot more people to come in, because they see there's more surrounding stuff that they can actually go to," Acuna says.
Monday, Ringgold Middle welcomed back it's 8th graders to a newly repaired building.
"It was a very difficult thing to go through. Very, very glad it's about to end," Ringgold Middle School Principal Mike Sholl says.
And last month, the last church to re-open was Mt. Peria Baptist.
"Woo! Great! Thank God," church member, Willie May Rutledge says.
It's proof of how the community has pulled together.
"To see what it is now. God! Where we came from and where we are now," church member, Moses Lumpkin says.
"The whole community of Ringgold. The gumption and pride they took in getting back on their feet," Catoosa County Schools Operations Director Doug Suits says.
Local lawmakers helped make the Krystal project happen.
Georgia planned road construction that would have blocked the restaurant's parking lot, but they worked it out so that it could re-open on the other side of the road.
Krystal will open at its new location in April and will employ about 35 people.
Thursday, May 23 2013 6:29 PM EDT2013-05-23 22:29:09 GMT
The parents of a Cleveland, Tennessee native, now living in Moore, Oklahoma, say they are grateful their son is alive.More >>
The parents of a Cleveland, Tennessee native, now living in Moore, Oklahoma, say they are grateful their son is alive. Twenty-five-year-old Jay Brown and his wife were in Moore when this week's massive tornado hit.More >>