SPOKANE, Wash. -- Owners of the iconic Milk Bottle restaurant that closed down last September after a fire tore through their building say they're just days away from re-opening. Co-Owner Christine Ritchie told KHQ that she hopes to welcome back customers for a bite to eat, ice cream, and milk shakes as soon as this Bloomsday.
"It's been a blessing in disguise because everything's new," Christine Ritchie.
From the ashes of arson, a blessing is not how you might expect Ritchie to describe the last seven months. But just days away from re-opening her family's restaurant, you can begin to see why.
For months, construction crews have prepared the Garland District restaurant for a comeback. On the inside, is new kitchen equipment, seating, and higher ceilings, among other renovations. From the outside, it looks like the fire never even happened. That's the way Ritchie likes it, with the old traditions and atmosphere still intact. She said she plans to re-hang pictures that were in the restaurant, which fireman managed to save from the fire.
"We tried to keep it as much the same as possible because there's a lot of people with memories and we didn't want to ruin their memories," Ritchie said.
Last September, Spokane firefighters arrived to the Milk Bottle and Ferguson's Cafe next door, two of the Garland District's most historic landmarks, engulfed in flames. Spokane firefighters received the call about the fire around 8:45 on a Sunday night. Once they arrived, crews said the flames were so intense, they could not go inside the restaurants and had to fight the fire from outside.
The cause remains under investigation today, but fire officials previously stated that the fire appeared to have started in cardboard, plastics and other combustibles piled in a walkway between the Milk Bottle and Ferguson's. Officials said the fire also reached a natural gas meter, which intensified the flames.
Ferguson's Cafe was completely destroyed. Ritchie believes it's a miracle her building didn't burn to the ground too.
"It's been a very long, hard winter," she continued. "And not just for the Milk Bottle but Ferguson's too. The whole district's been suffering."
In the weeks that followed, heart-ache over what was lost turned into support to rebuild. Several people in the community hosted fundraisers to help the owners of the two Spokane landmarks rebuild, including a movie donation night at the Garland Theatre which featured Spokane-based movie "Vision Quest".
"There were like three different months where were just down to the penny, down to our last dollar, and then they'd say 'We have a fundraiser for you'! And we were like 'We can eat!'" Ritchie explained.
Now, Ritchie says, she plans to show her gratitude to the people who donated through artwork and other unique ways inside the restaurant to show "where their money went."
Coupled with a community that helped bring the Milk Bottle back to life, the true blessing is the resilience to rebuild.
"Things happen in your life, and you can't ever really figure out why," Ritchie said. "You have to make a decision ...That it works out and I think this will be a blessing for us in the long run."
Ritchie said all the employees who were working at the restaurant bottle before the fire are coming back to work at the Milk Bottle again.
If they don't open in time for Bloomsday, they'd like to open by Mother's Day at the latest.
KHQ checked with Spokane firefighters Friday about the case. While they say the investigation is still officially on-going, the family maintains it was set by an arsonist. To protect themselves from another fire, or any other crimes in the future, the Milk Bottle owners say they are installing new security systems with cameras.
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