Popular Bellefontaine diner reopens

Popular Bellefontaine diner reopens after fire

Don’s Downtown Diner in Bellefontaine is back open for business after a nearly six month hiatus due to a grease fire.

The family-owned diner opened their doors to customers again just after the first of year, and for some loyals — it had been a long time coming.

“We made many passes by just waiting, and we were all pretty excited to see it open back up,” said Tom Watson.

There was a grease fire at the restaurant on Aug. 13 that got out of control.

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Tonya Williams, owns Don’s along with her husband Scott, said the entire grill area had to be replaced — a switch-out that took nearly six months to complete.

“It was emotional,” she said. “It was up and down the whole time. Every day it was just like a hurdle.”

But Williams said when she was finally able to open the doors to Don’s again — the community showed up in droves. By the time Don’s officially opened at 11 a.m. on Jan. 2, there was already a line forming at the door.

“We sold over 250 pounds of hamburger Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” Williams said. That’s compared to about 120 pounds in the a similar time span previously.

“I can’t even begin to put a number on everybody that has texted, messaged us on Facebook, called me just to see what was going on the whole time we were closed,” she said. “We would not be here if it wasn’t for them.”

The eatery is known for its fresh cut french fries, homemade dressings and seasonings and huge Texas Tenderloin sandwiches — but customers said they also come back for the company.

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Aside from running the restaurant with her husband, Williams’ son is the restaurant’s cook and her daughter is a waitress. But even the staff members who aren’t blood-related — are still considered family, which customers say makes them feel right at home.

“It’s always very welcoming,” said Watson. “Usually get greeted from whoever is behind the grill or the oven.”

“It’s the food, atmosphere — I’d say it’s not the cookie cutter approach,” said Fred Marshall, who went to high school with the Williams family and returns every Thursday to get another plate of fried pickles.

She said Don’s best weekend in the two years that she’s owned the restaurant was the first weekend back open after the fire.

The diner celebrated the re-opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday.