OTIS — Historic restaurant The Otis Cafe caught fire Thursday evening, forcing the closure of the landmark business in one of Lincoln County’s northernmost unincorporated communities.
The fire started just before around 7:45 p.m. Thursday and took about half an hour to put out, according to North Lincoln Fire and Rescue. Arriving firefighters found heavy smoke engulfing the building and smoke and flames were seen at the eaves and chimney. The blaze kindled in the kitchen in the back of the building while the restaurant was closed, and no injuries or deaths are reported but the small establishment was heavily damaged by heat and smoke.
“Fire was contained to the kitchen area and attic of the structure,” said NLFR Captain Jim Kusz. “The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire and there were no injuries to civilians or responding crews.”
The Otis Cafe is a beloved institution in the rural forested community, claiming the restaurant serves up “down home” breakfasts “since before you were born.” The eatery’s menu features meals like black molasses bread, German potatoes and several varieties of pie, described as a “fully delicious taste that you crave when you are on a road trip.”
“The heart of Otis is the Otis Cafe,” said the owner of the property, Gary Fromm. “People love the Otis Cafe. People have reached out to me from the East Coast, Europe…it’s going viral. It means so much to so many people.”
There is no indication the cafe will re-open anytime soon. The cafe’s owner Jeff England said he hopes to rebuild and thanked the community for an overwhelming show of support, despite feeling numb over losing his business.
“I’m very grateful,” England said. “Many people reached out to me. This community has overwhelmed me in so many ways.”
While the fire is still under investigation, England won’t have any idea when he can reopen. He hopes it’s sooner rather than later, he said.
“If I had my druthers, I’d reopen today,” England said.
Local Otis Cafe supporters set up a GoFundMe page within a day of the fire, which as of Friday morning fundraised $1,475 of the $25,000 goal. To donate, go to gofundme.com/otis-cafe-rebuild.