News and Tribune

December 10, 2013

Community rises up to help New Albany restaurant lost in fire

Sam's Food & Spirits burned down where it stood for 29 years

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — New Albany lost an iconic restaurant to fire late Monday night.

While Sam’s Food & Spirits’ location on Charlestown Road — where it stood for 29 years — burned down, the community was quick to rise up in a show of support.

“We’re amazed at the outpouring of support from our competitors, as well as our customers,” owner Sam Anderson said Tuesday.

The New Albany Fire Department responded to a fire at the restaurant Monday at 11:40 p.m. after a heat sensor in the restaurant’s kitchen triggered an alarm, said New Albany Fire Chief Matt Juliot. The restaurant was closed at the time of the fire, and no one was injured.

Firefighters who first responded to the scene entered the building and were able to make it about 60 feet in as they searched for the source of the blaze, but were forced to retreat, Juliot said.

“The roof was sagging in some areas of the structure, so we pulled the crews out for safety reasons and pretty much went on the defensive from that point,” Juliot said. “The majority of the fire was in the attic area.”

Juliot said the fire is under investigation, but said it is not regarded as suspicious at this time.

Anderson spent Tuesday assessing the damage and salvaging what he could from the smoking remains of the building. His thoughts could have turned to what he had lost, but that’s wasn’t the case. Instead, they turned to the people that relied upon his business.

“We’re trying to figure out a starting point more than anything else, but we’re just trying to take care of our customers and our employees right now,” Anderson said.

For his employees, that means trying to find a way for them to minimize the impact of the fire on their families. For Sam’s customers, it means helping those who had scheduled holiday parties at Sam’s find other venues on short notice. Thankfully, the fire did not take the manager’s office inside the building with it.

“We found a lot of reservation books and a lot of phone numbers,” Anderson said. “We’re working on trying to get everybody contacted now. So that was a nice blessing.”

Sam’s competitors, including Fireside in Sellersburg and several catering companies, have come forward to offer the restaurant’s employees hours, Anderson said. He added that employees from the New Albany location may be used at the restaurant’s Floyds Knobs location at Highlander Point.

The company’s social media presence has helped get the word out that help is needed, said longtime Sam’s employee Jane Alcorn, who handle’s the restaurant’s online presence.

“We’ve gotten a lot of support through the Internet and calls and everything, the community, it’s just — to me, it’s overwhelming,” Alcorn said.

Anderson said that while he’s hopeful that the restaurant will be rebuilt at the same New Albany site, he’s not certain that will happen yet.

“We’re all pretty numb right now,” Alcorn said. “We don’t even know for sure what the plan is yet. We need to have a meeting with the employees, just a lot of stuff.”