By LINDA MESSMER
Eddie's is back! The little sandwich shop that could reopened Saturday. The restaurant, on Walnut Street in downtown Brazil, shut down after a fire Jan. 25, 2003. Owner Marjorie Kocher did not want to continue.
But Rod Clarke loved the tiny eatery and vowed to bring it back. His goal of opening in May couldn't be reached when he was made aware of all the state and fire codes that had to be met. He and wife, Elaine, persevered, however, and hurdled the obstacles one at a time.
The grand opening was quite an event Saturday as nearly 75 people showed up to join in the celebration. Balloons were released and City Councilman Jim Sheese presided over the dedication as the Clarkes cut the symbolic red ribbon.
Jennie Pell, a 17-year-old Northview High School senior, was the first customer served. She won a lottery done for that purpose with all proceeds going to the Habitat for Humanity of Clay County.
The many necessary structural changes concerned some loyalists fearing that the food would also change.
"I loved Eddie's," Pell said. "I came quite a bit before it caught fire. It's definitely different now. But as long as it's the same hamburger, it's OK."
The structure has had extensive remodeling. Gleaming chrome fixtures and maroon, white and blue ceramic tile brighten the interior. "1931 Eddie's" is spelled out in tile on the floor.
Customer Jennifer Bass voiced approval about half way through her first hamburger. "It's awesome," she beamed. "It tastes the same!"
Bob Lemont was the first customer to get his order filled at the new carry out window. The business nearly busted at the seams throughout the day.
Rain did not dampen the spirits of the enthusiastic crowd as they continued to fill the counter stools, nine of which are the originals, and the new outside tables.
There was standing room only plus a continual line at the carry out window.
Some people say they don't understand the fondness, almost devotion to this restaurant. But the dedicated loyalists know.
Eddie's was started 73 years ago by a man just trying to feed his family.
He never visualized that the little store that could seat only nine people, would take on a life of its own and feed the spirit and hopes of its community.
The tiny building looked like a small trailer abandoned at the side of a downtown parking lot.
There was no way it should have survived the history it's lived through.
It saw Brazil's sons and daughters go to war starting with World War II.
It saw its customer base dwindle when the mines and brick factories closed, U.S. 40 traffic detoured to I-70 and the high school was moved to the "suburbs".
And even though many small businesses in downtown Brazil succumbed to the super sized world of Wal-Marts, Eddie's did not.
It met the challenge of the chains and would not surrender to the McDonalds, Hardees and Wendys.
The defiant little store captured the hearts of the people who knew of it.
Eddie's fed the spirit as well as the body. It was a survivor, a David against Goliath.
The landmark has become a tradition that's unique to Brazil.
And pleasant memories flourish.
One lady remembered how she and her siblings were entertained on many Saturdays with 10 Eddie's hamburgers and 10 comic books when they were kids. The burgers and comics were both 10 cents each back then.
A man used to take his son to Eddie's for lunch before the boy stated school. Now that man takes his granddaughter there when she comes to visit.
Eddie's seemed to refresh the soul. The businessman, factory worker and unemployed could sit elbow to elbow and bond while sharing conversation over lunch.
Rev. Gary Scroggins explained it best at the opening ceremony. "Eddie's is more than just a place to reload on food.
It's a place where people can come together in fellowship and visit and be truly happy for a while."
Editor Frank Phillips contributed to this report.