CERES, Calif. — Sam's Cafe in Ceres lost everything after a devastating fire the day after Thanksgiving in 2017.
It took longer than expected to recover, but on Thursday, the hometown restaurant is back open for business and ready to continue serving the community.
"So, when the roof [caught fire], it burned for 20 minutes before anybody realized there was a fire. It burned between the roof and the drop ceiling and then the roof collapsed onto the drop ceiling, collapsed inside," Sherrill Petersen, owner of Sam's Cafe said.
Aside from a few black and white photos and an old coffee grinder, Petersen lost everything.
"It's just a business, but to us, it was devastating because this is my livelihood, this is how I support my family," she said.
With 10 employees out of work and dozens of hungry regulars, she hoped she could reopen in just a few months.
"I think it was because of the old building, every time they would start on something they'd find another issue and all of that other stuff," she said.
But finally, 15 months after that devastating fire, locals found something they'd been hoping to see: a chalkboard sign sitting outside of Sam's Cafe in the same location that said, "Come on in, we're open!"
"I couldn't wait to get over here. I wanted to get that good stuff again," Robert Beaver, a Modesto resident said.
The Ceres favorite rose from the ashes.
"She had what they call a soft opening, well it wasn't really soft because, from the day she opened, all these people that wanted to know when she was going to open finally came in and it's been busy ever since and it's going to get busier," Don Goudeau, a regular from Ceres said.
Even though it's only been re-opened for about a week, a lot of familiar faces have returned.
"We're just glad that it's back open," Betty Harbour Taylor, a regular said.
"I've been coming here off and on for a couple of years or actually it's been longer than that!" Beaver said.
"Maybe 10 years," Taylor said.
"Usually I come here five days out of the seven days in the morning, a lot of times for lunch. I'm retired," Goudeau said.
And everyone seems to know everyone else as if nothing ever changed.
"We're open! We're back to stay! If you haven't tried us, please come and try us," Petersen said. "If you have, we'd like to see you back and thank you for being so faithful to us."
Petersen is planning to do an official grand re-opening sometime in April.
Sam's Cafe is located at 3052 5th Street in Ceres.
Continue the conversation with Lena on Facebook.
If you're viewing on the ABC10 App, tap here for multimedia.