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Karl's Fire

At 6:15 pm on February 15, 2023, a blaze broke out at the backside of our restaurant right in the middle of a Wednesday dinner rush. With a packed dining room, guests were asked to evacuate due to an unforeseen accident. Sadly, a fire started at our employee smoking station caused by high winds of the day, and it quickly spread across the rear of the building, resulting in severe damage to the historic log cabin roadhouse. Thankfully, no-one was hurt.  Chief James Rachwal and The Salem Township Fire Department rushed to the scene along with 14 other first responder departments from all over the area to battle the inferno for over 4 hours.  And at approximately 11pm we entered the building to review the damage.

While majority of the building still stood, and we could still touch many of the physical contents inside the restaurant, initially we did not understand the severity of the damage. The old cabin was eerie with no power and a stillness in the air due to the extensive damage done to the electrical system. Food and drinks were still left on all the tables from the evening's guests. Some phones and purses were even left behind. The restaurant had a strong smoke smell lingering throughout it, powerful enough to make you gag and cough. Black soot covered all the tables, chairs, walls and floors. The back hallways, where the fire entered the building were charred and our banquet room and dish area had serious fire damage with walls totally decimated. The scent of smoke permeated its way into everything (think of standing in front of a bonfire!) Soon we began to realize this was not going to be a quick repair.

We held a team meeting with our employees and sadly advised them we were going to be closed for an unplanned remodel. We let our loyal customers and the community know the same. The overwhelming outpouring of support began to roll in.  Friends from all over the world reached out to heartwarming messages.  In the coming days we were advised that the plan was to empty the entire restaurant of all its belongings and begin to gut the interior walls, electrical and plumbing down to the studs, essentially having to rebuild the entire restaurant all over again. This was the only way to properly remediate the smoke smell and fix the damaged cabin. The process was going to be long and tedious. We had to learn how to be patient.  Something new for folks in the restaurant business. 

Our amazing staff showed up and immediately started helping us. One by one, all of the items in the building were put into storage containers salvaging only a few items for future use. 7 containers will filled on the property! Karl’s management team began to meet daily at local restaurants using their facilities as makeshift offices. Soon an RV arrived in the parking lot and that became our home for the next 9 months.

While closed, we started a bowling league with our staff to stay close to each other. We were already a tight-knit crew and felt a sense of pride seeing each other weekly. No one else could understand what we were going through. We were in this together. The league lasted 24 weeks! It was both fun and therapeutic, forming a bond that will never be forgotten. We had summer events like BBQs, beach parties and even a special wall signing event where all our staff left personal notes on the restaurant's interior walls for future generations to read.

Many of us wondered how long the restoration and remodel would take and finally after 7 months in September, a new restaurant started to take shape. This was the first time the smell of smoke no longer permeated the building. We could also start seeing the new vision in both our historic log cabin dining room and in our new dining area, The Lodge. We also expanded the kitchen allowing us to service guests more effectively also making our staff very happy! This ultimately led us to plan our grand re-opening for some time in November 2023. We will never forget the final days of the month, racing to reopen, witnessing an entire team coming together to meet our opening goal. It was a remarkable achievement, and we are so grateful to have this crew!

We would like to thank everyone that helped us reopen. There are too many contractors, public servants, friends and vendors to list, but we would like to name a few here. First, we would like to thank Salem Township for helping us reopen. This community is truly one of a kind. It’s small, warm and inviting. The way a community should be. Without the board, building inspectors and township supervisor we would not have been able to rebuild the cabin in a timely manner. Thank you for all your guidance and help.

We would also like to thank all our amazing contractors for their hard work and rushing to help us. Restoring and remodeling the cabin in under 10 months required a herculean effort! Not only were we blessed with great workmanship, but we also met wonderful people that we will never forget. We owe a special thank you to our general contractor, Darin Berry, and his entire team at 360 Fire & Flood. They have a very keen eye for quality which we see everywhere in the beauty of the restoration and remodel. We would like to thank our friend Mark Waldecker for his architectural design. He helped us with very important blueprints and shaved off valuable time initially with all the proper documentation for the remodel. Lastly, we thank our friend Jim Fellwock from Jayz Electric. Of all the subcontractors, Jim and his team were here the longest, from the very beginning of the project, on day one, till the very end. Jim and his team did an amazing job, and as Jim likes to say, "this project never ends."

We are also beyond grateful for our insurance company, Farm Bureau of MI, our agent Patrick Conklin and our adjuster Ron Janowski. They were all exceptional to work with. Parick was there for us right out of the gate and never left our side. He was understanding and offered all his insight to help smooth the process. And Ron managed the claim with his team. We will never forget Ron simply asking for a chance to make it right, and more importantly he followed through on his promise! Without Farm Bureau, we simply wouldn’t have been able to reopen.

Finally, we would like to send a special thank you to all the area agencies and departments that save the cabin, including Ann Arbor City FD, Ann Arbor Twp. FD, Dexter FD, Northfield FD, South Lyon FD, Scio FD, Superior FD, Northville City FD, Northville Twp. FD, Plymouth FD, Plymouth Twp. FD, Canton FD, Lyon FD, Salem FD, Huron Valley Ambulance, Michigan State Police and Washtenaw County Sheriff. We will never forget you on the roof and inside the building while the fire was active. Without you, the loss would have been much greater.

To the entire community, thank you for the outpouring of love and support during our closure. We are so grateful for all the kind posts, text messages, phone calls, emails, cards, and personal visits. This motivated us to want to open as quickly as possible. And thank you for supporting a GoFundMe created by our loyal customers Tom and Theo Maged. Our staff is grateful for the aid.

And now that we are open, we look forward to welcoming you back! Thank you for your unwavering support and loyalty. We truly missed you.