Chase Yocom may not have eaten the last Eddie's hamburger. Eddie's Sandwich Shop, S. Walnut St., caught fire Jan. 25. The young Yocom finished his sandwich outside with his dad while watching firemen extinguish the flames. Owner Marjorie Kocher and her brother John, who ran the restaurant, did not want to repair and re-open.
There were concerns as to whether anyone would or could consider re-opening the shop due to state fire codes that might make the venture cost prohibitive.
But according to Pam Bright of the State Fire Marshall's Office, anything that can be repaired will be grandfathered in under codes that were in existence at the time the work was originally done. Only items that must be replaced will have to meet current fire codes.
Local residents Rod and Elaine Clarke have purchased Eddie's Sandwich Shop and plan to reopen as soon as possible. They're hoping to be in business within a month but it may take two, depending on the amount of repairs required.
Rod said that the damage was not as extensive as originally thought and most of it can be repaired. A new grill is needed and it will meet state codes including an ANSUL automatic fire extinguisher.
Originally from New York City, Rod moved to Brazil in 1978 when he was a junior in high school. One day a good friend, David Hoskins, took him to Eddie's for lunch. He was hooked.
Elaine Clarke grew up in the same neighborhood with the Ed Knierim family. Ed was the original proprietor of Eddie's Sandwich Shop.
Elaine's dad, Forrest Hardman, was a Brazil City fireman who worked with Bill Beeler, Don Donath, Bert Hyde, Lowell Garrigus and Joe Lundsford among others. The firemen frequently enjoyed sandwiches from Eddie's. And it wasn't uncommon for Hardman to take a bag of hamburgers home to his family for lunch.
Rod and Elaine met while working after they'd graduated from college. They married and have three children.
Josh, 22, attends Ivy Tech College, works part-time and is a Reserve Deputy Sheriff. Ashley, a sixth grader at North Clay Middle School, is 12. Eleven-year-old Alyssa is in the 5th grade at Meridian Elementary School. The entire family is ecstatic about opening Eddie's.
"I was very excited," Elaine said. "Now I'm also very scared. But he's like a little kid in a candy store," she added, nodding toward her husband.
Rod grinned his agreement. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd end up owning Eddie's," he said. "I really think it's fantastic.
"A restaurant that's been here for 72 years and we can actually keep it going."
Rod paused as if to savor the moment.
"We're not changing the structure," he continued, "mostly just making repairs. When I get the new grill I do want to make a larger grill area." Rod's enthusiasm seemed to brighten the damaged smoke-stained interior of the little local landmark.
"I've uncovered the original flooring," Rod declared. "And, I'm going to try to restore it. It's amazing how much this little shop means to this area. There have been so many people from the community who have volunteered to help us repair the shop. Elaine and I are very appreciative and thank everyone for their support."
The Clarkes plan to hire employees to run the shop during the day while they're working. They both teach for the Clay Community School Corp.
"For now, we want to keep things the same as much as possible and we'll have the same menu," Rod said. "But we're thinking about extending the hours. We may stay later in the evening and be open on weekends, especially during the theater's hours. There won't be many changes though. I like tradition and the ambiance of the place."