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Enochville residents share memories after West Side Cafe destroyed by fire

ENOCHVILLE — Ask anyone in Enochville, and they are likely to say they’ve eaten or worked at West Side Cafe.

It’s been a community fixture for a number of years, and the building itself has been around for decades.

A fire destroyed the building at 615 N. Enochville Ave. late Monday night. Rowan County fire departments as well as the South Iredell, Shepherd and Mooresville fire departments responded.

Barbara Hunter arrived Tuesday morning to a burned-out building where she had worked as a waitress since the restaurant opened.

“I was supposed to open today,” Hunter said through tears.

“This was not just a building. It was a community — a family,” Hunter said.

The building also housed a newly opened tattoo shop.

Hunter said interacting with the customers, ” you grow to love these people and learn about their families.”

There are so many memories for all the people who’ve supported the restaurant and its employees, Hunter said.

When customers were sick, Hunter said, employees would often visit them and take them food.

Erin Pless has lived in Enochville for 10 years and worked as a waitress at the restaurant for about 18 months.

She heard the fire alarm from her home and saw flames as she traveled closer to the restaurant.

“A neighbor called my husband, and we jumped into the car,” Pless said.

“I love this place,” Pless said.

“We’re one family — everybody who worked there,” said Juanita Smith, who’s been a waitress at the restaurant for about three years.

Smith said Enochville has gained a bad reputation over the years, but the restaurant was a bright spot amid the bad.

The restaurant had begun a Christian karaoke night on Tuesdays and more karaoke on the weekends.

“They wanted it to be a safe place where kids of all ages could come,” Smith said.

The restaurant was remodeled about two years ago.

“All of the workers that worked helped with the remodel,” Smith said.

The restaurant had begun to expand its services to include delivery, she said.

“I was very shocked and in disbelief. It’s saddening. It didn’t matter who got along with who. They knew that when they walked through those doors, you acted with respect,” Smith said.

The structure was built in 1947 and at one point was a supermarket. The building endured a fire in 1986 when it was Dal’s Bread and Bolts and owned by Dallas Campbell. He returned to the business Tuesday to console current owner Glenda Upright and her son, Mark Hobbs, who managed the restaurant.

Both Upright and Hobbs declined to comment.

The majority of the damage from the 1986 fire was confined to the apartments above. The apartments have since been removed, but former tenant Barbara “Bobbi” Durham still remembers them.

“We had just gotten married,” Durham said.

Durham and her late husband, Guy, lived in an apartment when they first married and moved out just before the fire destroyed it. Durham was a regular customer who ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the restaurant.

Jake Suddeth, who has lived in Enochville for a year, ate at the restaurant at least once a week.

“This was Enochville’s main hang-out spot,” Suddeth said.

Dawson Wilhite often frequented the restaurant and helped with the recent renovations. He lives in the area and heard the siren and realized it seemed close.

Wilhite said when he found out it was the restaurant, he rode down to witness the fire for himself.

“It was terrible,” he said.

“It means family for everybody,” Wilhite said of the restaurant.

The Monday night fire destroyed the building, leaving mostly a shell of the brick structure.

Andy Velentin, Andy Electric Tattoos owner, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Facebook, however, he posted that he did not have insurance. He lost more than $20,000 worth of equipment and investment in building renovations. A GoFundMe Page has been created for him.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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