BELLEVIEW, Fla. – The owners of a popular restaurant in Belleview say they plan to rebuild after an overnight fire forced the restaurant to close.
Marion County Fire Rescue crews said they were called to Aunt Fannie’s Restaurant at 6147 Abshier Blvd. around 12:05 a.m. after a passerby reported seeing heavy smoke coming from the building’s roof.
Crews arrived at the restaurant less than five minutes later and found that the fire was in the attic and that the flames had compromised the roof, causing the air handler to collapse and fall into the structure, fire officials said.
With the help of 41 firefighters from different agencies, the fire was finally contained at 12:56 a.m., according to James Lucas with the Marion County Fire Rescue.
“The fire started within the kitchen and the cause remains under investigation,” Lucas said.
The owners, AJ and Kathy Umland, said police knocked on their door around midnight and told them about the fire.
“It’s my life, I’ve been here 39 years, it’s apart of history for this town and county, it’s the original and last Aunt Fannie’s restaurant,” AJ Umland, owner of the restaurant said.
No one was injured but the building was damaged, forcing the owners to temporarily close the business.
Kathy Umland said 15 employees are now out of a job. She said they are going to pay them their latest paycheck.
“This is a family. I’m worried about the customers, I’m worried about the employees,” she said.
The owners say they plan to rebuild so they can continue serving the community and providing work for their employees.
“We will rebuild, we have employees, even if I have to sell something of my own to pay my employees they will get paid,” Kathy Umland said.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated, officials said.
A GoFundMe fundraiser has been made to help the restaurant owners. The owners are hoping the community they serve will help them in their time of need.
“We are going to reopen. We’re not going to stay close. We’re rebuilding this place,” Kathy Umland said.