Shannon Fell has one word to describe her and her business in 2020: resilient.
In the late evening of Sept. 19, Fell’s restaurant, Bodacious Bar-B-Q on Sixth Street in Longview, caught fire.
“A police officer driving by noticed the flames coming out towards the back gate area,” Fell said.
The fire occurred just two weeks after she was able to reopen the dining room for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Now, after cleanup and a month-long insurance investigation, Fell is patiently working on planning and permits to rebuild the damaged areas. The restaurant is not expected to be able to open until mid-January.
“I’ve owned it since ‘93, went to work here in ‘84,” Fell said, noting that she’s been working for nearly 37 years in the building. “2020 has definitely been interesting.”
Fell said the year has forced the restaurant to adapt to changing protocols and now, rebuilding. Before the fire, Bodacious had 12 employees.
“You know, it wasn’t my house, and nobody was hurt,” she said. “As long as there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and we can just get to the other side of this.”
She remembers the night of the fire when she received a call stating that the building suffered a “small fire.”
“I was assuming it was just a back room or whatever because I’ve had one of those before, and we opened the next day an hour later,” Fell said. “That was like 20 years ago.”
When she drove to the restaurant, she could see the emergency lights from Marshall Avenue and started to worry.
“As soon as I could see the front of the building, the design on the front of the building, you know, I felt a lot better,” Fell said.
The unique appearance of the building, originally built in the 1970s for Adam’s Ribs, was untouched.
“The firemen were fantastic because they saved my building,” she said, adding that she felt like there were 12 firetrucks at the scene with all the lights.
The day after the fire, she was told by fire officials that reopening could take four months between the insurance investigation, permits and more.
“That was a month of our holdup, the insurance company investigating, and it came back ‘undetermined,’ ” Fell said of the fire’s cause. “Once we can start building, I don’t think it’s going to take that long.”
The fire affected the roof, the pit room and part of the kitchen.
“The building is a cinderblock building, so the walls and all were good,” Fell said. “Everything in the dining room was fine, but everything’s got to be cleared out and taken out.”
Cleaning out the restaurant took Fell and her employees about a month.
“Cleaning everything and getting it out of the building,” she said. “The dining room floors have since buckled from the moisture in the building because of the holes that were in the roof.”
The dining room floors will need to be replaced as well as the pits and some of the equipment. The formerly wood ceiling in the back will be replaced with metal.
“Cinderblock and metal,” Fell said, smiling. “Anything that won’t burn.”
Since the fire, she said she has had more time to spend with her teenage children and her family in general. She even started substitute teaching at Pine Tree ISD.
Fell said she was inspired to start substituting at her children’s school district due to staffing needs as a result of COVID-19. But she won’t be venturing into full-time teaching anytime soon, she said.
“I’m not going to say that I didn’t, you know, when you have your fire go ‘is this the time, is this your opportunity to go and move on to something else?’ And I probably would think that a lot this past year,” Fell said. “But when something gets taken away from you, and you’re like ‘Whoa, wait a minute.’ ”
She looked over at the sign hanging by her desk, “Today is a perfect day to start living your dream.”
Fell said she’s been able to have dinner with her children every night for the past two months before her oldest likely heads off to college, something she would not have been able to do if the restaurant was open.
“It’s been nice to get a little bit more family time,” she said.