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Restaurant Burns Down

Houston breakfast institution gutted in a massive fire: Owner vows to rebuild restaurant

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Mary Lee Donuts fire February 2014
Mary Lee Donuts went up in smoke early Friday morning, putting the shop's 25-year history in jeopardy. Photo courtesy of KHOU Houston/Channel 11
Mary Lee Donuts fire February 2014
Firefights arrived just before 2 a.m. to find smoke pouring from the building. Photo courtesy of KHOU Houston/Channel 11
Mary Lee Donuts fire February 2014 RENDER FLAT
Employees had yet to arrive to start the morning's first batches of donuts. No injuries were reported. Photo courtesy of KHOU Houston/Channel 11
Mary Lee Donuts fire February 2014
Mary Lee Donuts fire February 2014
Mary Lee Donuts fire February 2014 RENDER FLAT

Firefighters arrived to a donut disaster Friday as raging flames ripped through a southeast Houston breakfast institution.

Located along the Gulf Freeway just below Wayside, Mary Lee Donuts has been serving the neighborhood for a quarter century, garnering a devoted fan base that cherishes the shop's sense of community as much as its celebrated glazed donuts and kolaches.

"It's a landmark in this area. Everybody comes here." 

But thanks to an early morning blaze that investigators believe started in a fryer or exhaust system, the popular cafe's future remains unknown.

Houston Fire Department chief James Watson tells KHOU Channel 11 that trucks pulled up to the scene just before 2 a.m. to find heavy smoke pouring from the one-story business. Fearing that the roof might collapse, firefighters subdued the flames from the outside.

The shop was closed at the time of the incident, and employees had yet to arrive to start the day's donuts. No injuries have been reported.

While loyal customers mourn the loss of a favorite local haunt, the owner assures his fans the gutted restaurant will be rebuilt.

"My children, I used to bring them here. It's sad,"  longtime patron Rosie Martinez tells KTRK Channel 13. "Hopefully, he'll rebuild. It's a landmark in this area. Everybody comes here.

"Every morning it's full of people."

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