Fire shuts down Decorah restaurant - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Fire shuts down Decorah restaurant

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A Decorah family is facing an uncertain future after a fire at the Cho Sun Mongolian Grill Buffet.

"This is where I was raised a lot ... since my parents worked here about every day," said Jee Lee, the son of the restaurant's owners.

For Lee, Cho Sun holds a lot of childhood memories. So when his family arrived on scene around one a.m Wednesday, what they found was especially painful.

"We saw a lot of smoke," Lee said. "We could see it from the highway as we were driving up."

Jee's parents, Nika and Hyang Lee, have operated the restaurant for more than 30 years, since they came over from Korea.

Lee said his family felt like watching the restaurant burn was like watching those years go up in smoke.

"That's exactly what my mom was most upset about," he said. "She wasn't afraid of the building burning down, but it's just the memories that she had raising her kids here, working here."

Lee said they renovated the building a few years back, so the fire was surprising.

"The fire was in the kitchen," Decorah Fire Chief Mike Ashbacher said. "I think we had some fire extension at some point in the area below."

Crews had the fire out in a few hours, but the damage was extensive. Ashbacher said cocommercialires like this come with unique challenges.

"Bigger gas lines ... bigger power lines coming into the building, things such as that," he said.

Now, stepping through the charred remains of the business, the family is left wondering -- what's next?

"It was a large source of our income," Lee said. "We don't know what to do right now. We want to get it rebuilt, but we're just kind of afraid where we'll get the money from now."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Ashbacher said he and the fire marshall will examine the scene tomorrow, and expect to know more after that.

The Lee family thanks the fire crews for their quick response.

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