Burned New Albany restaurant more than just a place to eat - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Burned New Albany restaurant more than just a place to eat

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The damage from the fire was visible on Tuesday. The damage from the fire was visible on Tuesday.
The business caught fire Monday night. The business caught fire Monday night.
Owner Sam Anderson Owner Sam Anderson
Bryan Condra Bryan Condra

NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) - A favorite local restaurant is now only a charred shell, with a gaping hole in the roof where a fire tore through overnight.

New Albany Fire Chief Matt Juliot said an alarm in the kitchen of Sam's Food and Spirits alerted crews to the fire, just about 40 minutes after closing. The chief said they had to pull crews out when the fire spread to the attic and just focus on keeping everyone safe.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Fire destroys locally owned restaurant]

Owner Sam Anderson watched as his restaurant burned. "On the outside, I'm fine," he said. "On the inside, I'm trying to figure out where do you start."

Anderson has already started once, opening Sam's in 1985 to be his own boss.

"I started out in the restaurant business in 1975 as a busboy and dishwasher and wound up owning one in 1985, so 10 years later," he said.

Since then, Sam's has built up a reputation for some of the best fried chicken around New Albany, a plate that brought just about everyone in to try it.

"We've even had presidents eat with us here," Anderson said.

In 2007, when then-President George W. Bush made a stop in Southern Indiana, Sam's was where he sat down for a plate of home cooking. The restaurant pulled that together with only 45 minutes notice.

"That's a once in a lifetime experience and we've been blessed to have those things but we've been blessed with a lot of great business here and we will come back and be stronger for it," said Anderson.

That's something long-time customers are counting on. At lunchtime Tuesday, a stream of them showed up just to see what was left.

"A lot of family time here," said Bryan Condra.

Condra spent just about all his life in New Albany and says the burning of this landmark reminds him of another fire in 2008.

"It's been here a long time," he said.  "It's pretty sad.  It kind of reminds me of Steinert's, when Steinert's burn in kind of a historical part of New Albany."

A year later, Steinert's reopened and Sam Anderson says with any luck, his life's work will too.

"This fire reminds me of what I am," Anderson said. "They're having a hard time putting it out and it's as stubborn as I am, I think. And I'm going to figure out how to make this thing work."

Anderson said his main concern was for his employees and the people who had holiday parties booked in the restaurant's event room.  He says a second location in Floyds Knobs can accommodate some of that, but it certainly won't make up for the New Albany restaurant's loss.

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