A fast-moving kitchen fire prevented a planned 70th anniversary celebration today at Jimmy John's Pipin' Hot Sandwiches, a landmark eatery on Route 202 in Delaware County.
Concordville Fire Chief Thomas Nelling said the fire was reported at 8:19 a.m. and brought under control in about two hours. No one was injured, and about 10 companies assisted, he said.
"It looks to me like the building's a total loss," Nelling said.
The blaze gutted much of the interior of the one-story, red-brick building and burned through sections of the roof; however, the walls were still standing. Nearby, a sign advertised the birthday party, which was to include dogs, burgers, and sodas priced at 70 cents each.
"My son-in-law [owner Roger Steward] has been planning this day forever," said Ann Cosgrove.
She said she and other relatives arrived this morning to join the festivities and lend a hand.
"I told him: This is your day, and he said, 'No, it's not my day. Today is my customers' day, and this is to let them know how much we appreciate them,'" Cosgrove related.
Instead, Steward and his employees, many of whom were visibly distraught, formed an assembly line as firefighters inside the structure handed them dozens of framed photos, some of them dating back decades, that had covered the walls.
The items, some severely charred and others remarkably unscathed, were lined up outside the businesses next door: the 202 Knife Shop and Tony Polito's Barber Shop and Military Museum.
"We'll be back," declared Bruce Oas, 47, who has worked part-time at the restaurant for 30 years.
"That's my intention," he said, shaking his head.