A mainstay restaurant in rural southern Sumter County was destroyed by a fire early Monday morning.
Country Fixins, a family-style buffet barbecue restaurant located at 4335 U.S. 15 South between the Lakewood area and Paxville, burned overnight, …
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Country Fixins, a family-style buffet barbecue restaurant located at 4335 U.S. 15 South between the Lakewood area and Paxville, burned overnight, with the Sumter Fire Department Station 20 being notified about 4:08 a.m.
Firefighters arrived to find the blaze coming from the back of the building, the back doors still in tact but falling down from the surrounding fire, according to a department report.
Between the loss of the structure and its contents, the damage is estimated at $150,000.
The building was small and unassuming, but it was the only source of fresh restaurant food around, Louise Hodge said.
Hodge opened the barbecue joint with her husband, Sydney, in 1998. She had been working at BD, and her father owned the building and asked if they wanted to do anything with it.
"I always loved to cook, me and my sister," Hodge said.
They renovated the building and added on to it, having provided fresh-cooked meals to the area for more than 20 years and going through the ups and downs of life with their family and local friends along the way.
When their daughter got married, there were so many people there from the eatery they filled the church. On the other side, they had been closed for about five weeks because of the pandemic, and they know three people who have died from the virus.
"We've met some wonderful people there. We've lost some good ones, too, that really tore us up," Hodge said.
Country Fixins had just reopened a couple weeks ago after they finally felt able to serve food safely.
Hodge said they're on standstill. She said the cause may have been electrical, but the fire department deemed it suspicious, according to the fire report and Division Chief Joey Duggan.
The Sumter County Sheriff's Office is investigating. Deputy Adrienne Sarvis, the agency's public information officer, said there is no indication so far that the blaze was part of a riot or connected to local and nationwide protests, which remained peaceful in Sumter over the weekend and into Monday afternoon, over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a black man who died in police custody at the hands of a white officer.
Hodge said they may just retire. They're at the age anyway.
"We're the only thing that's open down here, especially on Sunday," she said. "Nothing is open, but we always had turkey and dressing on Sunday. Even after Thanksgiving Day."
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