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."