Chowders ‘N Moor reopens after fireWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
A fire may have claimed seven months and a roomful of precious mementos from their Waterville business, but Tom and Tina Kuron plan to have the last laugh.
The owners of Chowders ‘N Moor, which reopened Jan. 23 following a June fire, are designing a T-shirt. The back shows a chicken holding a match, running away from the restaurant on fire, and reads “I ain’t gonna be no chicken chili,” while the front reads, “We survived. The chicken didn’t.”
“We’re poking fun at the fire, that a chicken lit the building on fire because he didn’t want to go in the chili pot,” Tom said, referring to the white chicken chili that is the eatery’s signature dish.
The grand reopening was exciting and emotional, the Kurons said.
“All night we just thanked people,” Tina said. “We shook hands, we walked around the dining room and were just glad to see people back. That’s been every single day this week actually. People are actually thanking us for opening back up. They are happy to be here. It was nice to see people come back.”
“What was funny was that after a few hours it felt like we never even closed,” Tom added. “It was the same people, sitting in the same spots. It was exciting.”
The Kurons, who also operate a Chowders ‘N Moor restaurant in Holland, said many Waterville customers have come to the Holland location, and many Holland customers have come to Waterville since the re-opening to show their support.
“Honestly I have been choked up this whole week,” Tina said. “I really appreciate those people in both locations that supported us. People have been patient and we want to thank them for their patience and thank them for coming back. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here.”
Too far gone
The Kurons opened the original Chowders ‘N Moor in Waterville in 2002, moving the eatery to its current location at 312 South St. in 2007. They opened their Holland location, at 7723 Airport Highway, in 2008.
The cause of the fire, which started in the basement office of the Waterville eatery on June 18, 2011, was never determined, although a fire inspector suspected faulty wiring, Tina said.
“We got the phone call at home,” Tina said. “Tom had just left, within the hour. My sister and our nephew were working here. The office was just up in flames. They tried to do whatever they could to get the fire out, but it was too far gone.”
The basement office, which was a total loss, sustained heavy fire, smoke and water damage while the rest of the building had smoke damage.
“The hardest thing to lose was our memorabilia; it was our memories down here,” Tom said. “This office is like my second home. We had family pictures, we had little ‘love you’ letters that got burnt up. Ten years of memories. You talk to anyone who’s had their house burned down to the ground — your house, your furniture, your bedding, your clothing, all that stuff can be replaced. It’s your kid’s pictures and your photo albums. It’s stuff like that that means the most to you. Those are things money can’t replace.”
It was also upsetting to lose keepsake decorations, some of which were gifts, Tina said.
“One that sticks out in my mind is someone got us a Jimmy Buffett ticket from a concert with a picture of him on stage and all that. That I couldn’t save,” Tina said. “Just a lot of decorations that were here in the office that I hadn’t had a chance to hang up yet.”
The restaurant’s plumbing, electrical system, heating and air system and flooring were replaced or overhauled, Tina said.
“It was just endless things that were upgraded,” Tina said. “People think, ‘Why did it take you so long? The place looks the same.’ I hung the decorations on the wall pretty much like they were, so when they walk in, yeah, it doesn’t look much different, but every single thing in this restaurant was taken off site to be cleaned. We had to replace every piece of plastic that was in here. Anything glass or metal could be saved, but everything else we had to throw away. Thousands of dollars of food. Alcohol. All that stuff was just a loss.”
Lindsey Gibbs of Whitehouse, a manager at the Waterville location, was on her way to work when she got a call from a co-worker about the fire.
“I saw everyone out in the parking lot, crying, fire trucks everywhere,” Gibbs said. “It’s just sad. Your heart just sinks. You never want to see it happen to anyone, especially people who have worked so hard to build a place from the ground up. You don’t realize how hard and complicated it is until it happens to someone you know.”
Big happy family
The Kurons were able to keep some workers, including Gibbs, at the Holland location, but about 75 percent were on unemployment, Tina said.
“Everyone here is like a big happy family, whether you go to Holland or Waterville,” Gibbs said. “Everyone knows everyone and gets along really great. As much as I love Holland, it feels good to be back where I started. It’s good to see familiar faces and meet new regulars. We’re doing great and it should only get better.”
Although they never anticipated it would take seven months to reopen, the couple took advantage of the closure to experiment with recipes and make updates, such as improving handicap-accessibility.
New food options includes a monthly chef’s steak special, steak fingers appetizer, fajitas on Mexican Mondays, soup bread bowl, chicken and rice spinach salad, house steak salad, hand-battered shrimp and more.
Both eateries now serve $2 margaritas seven days a week and offer a 3-6 p.m. happy hour Monday through Friday featuring half-off appetizers and drink specials.
Other specials include 75 cent tacos on Mexican Mondays; a half-pound loaded steakburger for $2.99 on Tuesdays; smothered chicken breast served over linguine with a vegetable of the day and dinner salad for $13.99 on Wednesdays; an 8-ounce center-cut sirloin steak with one side and dinner salad for $10.99 on Thursdays; a half-pound Lake Erie perch dinner with fries and coleslaw for $14.99 on Fridays; an 8-ounce center-cut sirloin steak chef’s special topped with homemade sauce and served on rice pilaf with a vegetable of the day and dinner salad for $16.99 on Saturdays; and open-faced roast beef with mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetable of the day for $8.99 on Sundays.
Waterville hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Holland hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, visit www.chowdersnmoor.com.