UPDATE | Fire destroys Secret Sandwich Society in Fayetteville; restaurant owner plans to rebuild

Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 8:39 AM EST
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UPDATE 11/5/20 @ 5:45 p.m.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Fire on Thursday destroyed a landmark restaurant in the Fayetteville community.

Fayetteville Police officers noticed smoke near the Secret Sandwich Society while on patrol around 7:25 Thursday morning, County Fire Coordinator Joe Crist said. When officers got closer, the building was fully engulfed in flames.

The fire had overtaken all three floors of the building by time firefighters got on scene and required five departments to get it under control, Crist said.

“There were a lot of difficulties in it because it had been built onto so many times,” Crist said about the 100-year-old building. “With roofs over roofs and build-ons, it was just hard to get to the major part of the fire. We had to do a lot of cutting, a lot of digging and stuff to actually get to the main seat of the fire.”

By the time the flames were under control, most of the building was charred. Owner Lewis Rhinehart said the floor of the upper level music venue, The Grove, collapsed into the kitchen below.

The restaurant has full insurance coverage for the fire and business interruption, Rhinehart said. He hopes to begin rebuilding in Fayetteville as soon as possible, and even mentioned getting a food truck to continue serving customers while the new structure is completed.

“Today, I am just going to try to let it settle in and try not to lose my mind and make sure my staff is taken care of,” Rhinehart said about receiving hundreds of messages. “We pride ourselves on being part of the Fayetteville community and we have every plan to rebuild and reopen."

Rhinehart said the Secret Sandwich Society was hurt by the pandemic shutdown, but quickly recovered over the summer with some of its most profitable days ever, through takeout orders at a newly installed window. His goal was to continue supporting his staff and the surrounding community during the pandemic, while serving people looking to take advantage Fayetteville’s outdoor activities.

“We are all family,” Rhinehart said. “We all take care of each other, we always have. We’ve got a really solid core crew that has been there for me through thick and thin, through this global pandemic, and I’m going to continue to be there for them.”

The Secret Sandwich Society is a landmark for people traveling from around the country to experience the New River’s whitewater rafting, rental home owner Kim Maxwell said. The local economy has been booming in recent years, and she said unique businesses, like Secret Sandwich Society, help attract the crowds.

“I would be surprised if I got a review that didn’t mention Secret Sandwich Society,” Maxwell said. “They love it. Everybody loves it. So yeah, it’s devastating. I really feel for the owners and hope they can rally and come back even better than before.”

Maxwell said the community has rebounded from worse things than a fire, and expects it to once again support each other to come back stronger.

A GoFundMe page created by a community member raised more than $17,000 for the restaurant within a couple of hours of the fire being extinguished. Rhinehart said any and all funds that are raised will be given to his employees to help them during the difficult time.

UPDATE 11/5/20 @ 3:55 p.m.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) - While they say they’re devastated, the owners of Secret Sandwich Society in Fayetteville said they plan to rebuild what has become a restaurant institution in that community.

Fire gutted the business Thursday morning. It was on all three floors when crews arrived at the scene.

The owner released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

"First off, I am ok and my staff is ok. We are devastated for sure. We are fully covered by insurance for the building AND we have business interruption coverage. Thank you Ben Morgan! Thank you to the Fayetteville, Oak Hill, Mt. Hope and Ansted Fire Departments for their swift response and risking life and limb.

“WE WILL REBUILD, WE WILL BE BACK, WE WILL RISE ABOVE! We will be better, bigger and stronger than ever.”

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information

UPDATE 11/5/20 @ 10:31 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) - New details are being released about a fire at Secret Sandwich Society.

Fayetteville Police officers noticed smoke in the area around 7:30 a.m. on Thursday.

It was engulfed when crews arrived.

Officials say the fire was on all three floors.

So far, no injuries have been reported.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

ORIGINAL STORY 11/5/20 @ 8:39 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Fayetteville dispatchers tell WSAZ Secret Sandwich Society, a popular restaurant in the area, is on fire.

Dispatchers tell WSAZ it is unclear right now how the fire started or if anyone is hurt.

WSAZ has a crew heading to the scene.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

The owner of Secret Sandwich Society in Fayetteville, West Virginia says he has plans to rebuild after the restaurant caught fire Thursday morning.

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