A fire ravaged one of Houston's oldest restaurants early Tuesday morning, but the owner has vowed to rebuild. The one-alarm blaze at historic Cleburne Cafeteria started shortly after midnight and spread quickly, according to multiple media reports.
"This is my whole life. It’s the only job I’ve ever had," owner George Mickelis told KHOU. "It’s devastating because they’ve been chasing this fire through the ceiling, and once they put it out there’s more flames."
As the fire spread, it ultimately caused the ceiling to collapse. Investigators will determine what caused the fire. Thankfully, no one was inside at the time.
Cleburne is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and had announced plans to celebrate in May by rolling back prices to what they were in 1941. It has occupied its current location at the corner of Bissonnet and Edloe since 1969.
The location has been previously damaged by fire in August of 1990, but was rebuilt and reopened that December. Paintings by original owner Nick Mickelis survived that fire, but today's blaze probably doomed them. Nick's son George has vowed to rebuild again when he spoke to reporters this morning.
"I mean, we’ve got to rebuild. I don’t know anything else to do," he told KTRK and others. "We have a lot of employees that count on us. A lot of customers that we love and appreciate that are like family that eat with us everyday. It’s just a passion that we have here. We love serving people. We’re in the hospitality business."
Update: Mickelis provided the following statement about the restaurant:
Obviously, my family and I are devastated over the loss of our restaurant, Cleburne Cafeteria. We have proudly served our amazing and loyal clientele for 75 years. Even though the fire last night completely destroyed Cleburne's, including the beautiful paintings created by my father, Nick Mickelis, we will rebuild and will continue to serve the Houston Community for years to come. On behalf of my mother, Pat, and all of our dedicated employees, I would like to thank everyone for the prayers and well wishes. We look forward to seeing you in the future, once we reopen.