Reported By: Lee Peck
Surveying what's left of their restaurant, DeAngelo's co-owners Ben Herrera and Richie Gregory say it's hard to believe that six years of hard work has been reduced to a pile of ashes. The two men built the restaurant from the ground up.
"It was surreal to watch it burn early sunday morning, a lot of different emotions go through your head," said Herrera.
The fire that ripped through the popular pizzeria early Sunday morning took five fire crews more than nine hours to fully extinguish. And while there's a lot speculation on what exactly caused the fire, investigators believe it started in the upper region of the kitchen. Arson is not suspected.
"I think it will be a good week, week and a half before we really know, maybe exactly where it started, how it started and what caused it all," said Herrera.
The total loss has left the close knit staff in mourning and hungry patrons looking for other options. "I had no clue... I was like we are just going to have to somewhere's else to eat some good pizza. It's just so sad," said Ashley Bernard.
Already well wishers are coming by leaving messages such as "We miss you" and "Come back soon." The owners want to thank everyone for their overwhelming support during this difficult time and say they'll be back bigger and better.
"I think there would probably be death warrants out there for both Ben and I if we didn't come back here. And that's what's been special," said Gregory.
"You know Lake Charles, the people here are amazing and what they've done for us and DeAngelo's has been good for Lake Charles. Our hopes are to rebuild but we just have a lot to do to make that happen," said Herrera.
They expect it will likely take 6 months to rebuild. In the meantime, their first priority is helping their staff of 45 find temporary employment.
"It's not like losing a home with the personal possessions, it's a business and it's people's livelihoods and that's the tough part," said Gregory.
"I would hope that anybody out there that sees a DeAngelo's employee come and apply, that they would give them a job because we had some good ones. We had some really good employees, that's what made this place," said Herrera.
The owners say they'll likely have to tear down what's left of the building, but expect to rebuild in the same location at 121 South Ryan Street. Meanwhile, they are meeting for dinner with all of their employees Wednesday night at 5 p.m. at the Lake Charles Raquet Club to discuss available options.
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