'It was a shock': Owners of Collingwood's Olde Red Hen Restaurant plan to rebuild following fire

The two owners of Collingwood, Ont.’s greasy spoon staple, The Olde Red Hen, are planning to rebuild after a fire ripped through the restaurant last week.

During the early morning hours of Thursday, Jim Meridis and Diane Smith got the call that their business was ablaze.

Read more:
Fire rips through Olde Red Hen Restaurant in Collingwood, Ont.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘It’s probably a false alarm,’ because in 20 years, we’ve never had a fire,” Smith said. “We called two of the tenants, and both of them were saying there’s smoke everywhere, so we knew it was real.”

Meridis and Smith took about an hour to drive from their house in Midland, Ont., to the restaurant. When they got there, they saw smoke billowing out of the windows.

“It was a shock,” Meridis said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

The couple stayed at the scene until fire crews left, from about 4:30 a.m. until approximately 5:30 p.m.

At the time of the fire, Collingwood fire chief Ross Parr told Global News about six people were evacuated from five apartments on the second floor of the building.

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“We were kind (being) a little bit social, talking with tenants and the customers that were coming by, so it was kind of a big hug,” Smith said. “Everybody was very supportive.”

Meridis and Smith have been in business at The Olde Red Hen for 20 years. This year would have been their 20th anniversary.

When Meridis and Smith first acquired the diner, they called it the Collingwood Family Restaurant, but they later changed its name back to the Olde Red Hen because of its main street notoriety within the community.

“We’ve never looked back, so we’ve had a very successful, supportive community that we get repeat, repeat, repeat business, and we get referral, referral, referral,” Smith said.  “We’re very proud.”

The diner is known for its breakfast and its decor of old memorabilia.

hello everyone. thank you all very much for your concern over the fire today. jim and I appreciate all your kind…

Posted by The Olde Red Hen Restaurant on Thursday, June 25, 2020

“We will keep the history,” Smith said. “We don’t know what the structure is going to be like inside…but the memorabilia — that’s what makes our place unique.”

The fire department has estimated the building will take about a year to reconstruct, according to Smith, but she and Meridis are hoping it’s ready sooner.

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“We still have to wait for the engineers and that to go in,” Smith said. “We don’t know what the damage is, so we’re hoping it will be less than that. ”

On Thursday, Parr estimated that the cost of damages is $1-million-plus.

“We thank the community for their support,” Smith said. “We will continue to be in touch with the community somehow. We just want to tell them that we’re blessed we’re in Collingwood and will continue to be in Collingwood.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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