Two year anniversary of restaurant's second devastation - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Two year anniversary of restaurant's second devastation


BALLTOWN (KWWL) -- Two years ago, one of Iowa's oldest restaurants burned to the ground - for the second time in ten months.

Breitbach's Country Dining burned down for the first time on Christmas Eve of 2007, after an explosion in the basement ignited the structure.

Exactly ten months later to the day, on October 24, 2008, the re-built restaurant burned to the ground again.

Now, two years after that second devastation, owner Mike Breitbach said he is thankful to all the local support that gave his 158-year-old family restaurant not one, but two chances at a fresh start.

"It was this close that the building did not come back," Breitbach said to a group of diners at his restaurant Sunday afternoon, whom he thanked for their business and support.

One such diner was Ed Hageman, who has been a Breitbach customer for "about 50 years, for sure," he said.

"It's always been a nice place," Hageman said. "Always good food. It's just like home cooking."

Other customers, such as Mary Sue Schultz, have a surprise in store.

"I can't wait to get inside and see what it looks like," she said as she waited outside with her family to be seated. "We haven't been here since before the first fire, which has been way too long."

They had heard about the two-year anniversary of the second fire and decided now was a good time to check out the new building.

"This is different. It's pretty," Schultz said, as she entered the new restaurant for her first time.

Newspaper clippings on the wall detail both fires and rebuilding processes.

"The first fire, we were knocked down," Breitbach said. "The second time, two years ago today, we were knocked way down. The community and the local crowd here held our hands and we came back. We were down, and we came back, better than ever."

Out of the ashes of disaster came a golden opportunity.

"The fires tends to result in a lot of advertising," a Breitbach's volunteer Dennis Hoppenworth said. "People learn about the fire, learn what's happened and they do want to come here."

For Breitbach, being able to keep his 158-year-old family business alive has him thanking those who made it possible.

"It brings tears to your eyes, the local support, the local area, the local community we had to help us bring us back up the second time," he said.

The building has been open for business since August of 2009 and includes a more-than-$100,000 sprinkler system.

Breitbach directed KWWL's question about the cause of the second fire to his insurance company.

Nobody was injured in either blaze.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

Powered by Frankly