Sassafras Diner Damaged By Fire [Update]

A late night fire gutted the family-owned Shelton diner at 13 Huntington St.

Family-owned , located within the strip mall of Huntington Plaza, was damaged by a fire late Thursday night. The fire department was called to the scene shortly after 11 p.m. and the blaze was extinguished within a half hour, though the diner suffered internal and external damage. Fire Marshal Jim Tortora said a charcoal grill in the back of the establishment likely started the blaze, though the exact cause has not yet been pinpointed.

Owner Chris Poniros has run the restaurant for 28 years. He first learned of the fire when a friend saw a photo posted online and called him with the news in the middle of the night. His first thought when he got to the scene was "it's all over," but realized later "it's not."

"I'm going to wait to see what the insurance company says and we're going to remodel as soon as possible," Poniros said.

Poniros said he was touched that neighbors and patrons came to the plaza to offer kind words and support. "It means a lot. I've got a lot of granmothers and grandfathers who aren't really grandmothers and grandfathers."

Other businesses neighboring Sassafras were unharmed aside from some water and smoke damage.

"A couple of the other businesses have some damaged doors from fire department forcible entry and there's some smoke damage to the chiropractor and the gift shop. A little bit further down it gets less but they could be open probably within today," Tortora said.

Ruth McClenaghan, who owns which is located just two doors down from Sassafras, said her insurance company called early this morning to notify her of the fire.

"It makes you sick to your stomach," she said. "We're all friends in this plaza, we're all very close. I can't believe it."

Though there was no damage to the store itself, McClenaghan said much of the merchandise inside was destroyed by smoke that had traveled down the line of businesses. "I won't be able to sell so many things, no one wants to buy a gift that smells like fire and has smoke stains."

Gillian June 30, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Gillian June 30, 2012 at 12:40 AM
We're a family of 5 in Huntington. We love Sassafras!!! Such a warm and inviting little diner. It felt like home. We hope you get to rebuild and create the next 30 years of history soon!!! Our best wishes to the Sassafras family and crew during this time of great loss. We know you'll be back!
Mike Dzujna June 30, 2012 at 09:56 AM
We wish Sassafras a speady recovery. My family and I love this place..come back soon! Chris..maybe someone can recreate that old sign..that's a heartbreaker. Best of luck to the Poniros family going forward.
Vinny Serra June 30, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Eileen and Vinny Serra Eileen and I were heart broken to find out the news. It has been our kitchen for over 20 years. Chris, Jean, Dennis, Lou, Alvero and Shena and everyone we what to wish you the best. We feel that you are our family.
A. June 30, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Sending thoughts and good wishes to the Poniros family...Sassafras is our favorite breakfast spot, and they always are so sweet to our kids. We hope you're able to remodel quickly--Mike, Alison, Callie, & Dean


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