A local Savanna business has opened its doors after a November 2010 fire destroyed the original building.
Manuel “Manny” Castro Jr., owner of Manny’s Pizza, 211 Main St., Savanna, remembers receiving the 6 a.m. phone call, telling him his restaurant was on fire on Nov. 14, 2010. At first, he hoped it was a little fire out back or in one of the smaller rooms. However, as he drove to the restaurant, his hopes were dashed.
“As I got closer and closer, I could see it was no little fire. It was really, you know, the smoke was black and getting just bigger as I got closer,” Castro said. “So I knew it was something that was not good.”
Manager Wendy Sipes received the first phone call about the fire. One of the people living above the restaurant called her and she then called her niece, Jessica Villalobas, who is also Castro’s daughter and works at Manny’s Pizza.
“Our first response was to make sure everyone was out of the apartments,” Sipes said.
Fire departments from 11 communities, including Clinton, responded to the fire. Firefighters worked throughout the day to extinguish the fire.
“Well we pretty much knew that it would have to be rebuilt,” Castro said about the damage caused by the fire.
The original Manny’s was comprised of three buildings. The fire started in the middle building and Castro said that area was demolished. Smoke and water ruined the other two sections. They knew it was a complete loss.
Nine days after the fire, the restaurant moved into the temporary location of the old Happy Joe’s building and opened under the name Manny’s 4 Now, which was suggested by a customer. The building fit the restaurant’s needs, although a bit small. Villalobas said customers were great about getting big orders to go, due to the space. Members of the community also came and helped clean the location and get the restaurant moved in.
“Without their help I don’t think we would have been there,” Castro said.
Construction on the new building began in June. Castro said they never seriously considered not rebuilding the restaurant. Next year will mark 40 years for the business. He felt that was enough of a reason to rebuild and continue serving the communities.
“If they’ve come for 39, we know they’re going to come for a lot more,” Castro said. “And we just couldn’t wait to get back up and running at our new place.”
The restaurant received a lot of support from the community to rebuild. Larry Stebbins, the Savanna mayor and local business owner, was happy to see Manny’s re-open permanently.
“Manny’s is a go-to destination in Savanna,” Stebbins said.
He said the restaurant is a leading reason why people return to the town during the holidays. They want to eat at Manny’s.
“It was an absolute necessity that he rebuilt it in Savanna. It just wouldn’t be the same without them,” Stebbins said.
People visiting the new Manny’s building will see a much larger restaurant, which seats 450 people, opposed to the 350 of the old location. The new location features three dining rooms, two bars, outdoor seating and a game room with arcade games. The new banquet hall sits in the lot next door which Castro purchased. People have already been asking for information on the banquet hall.
“I would say we knew we were getting kind of crammed in our old space because it was just three narrow buildings that we had added together. We want to make it bigger and offer more for people and be able to have more parties in a banquet type room,” Villalobas said.
“We didn’t want to do that after a fire. We didn’t want a fire to take it away from us and have to do it. But after it happened, I guess it gave us the chance to do anything. It was endless what we could rebuild.”
Minor brick work outside is still being done. Castro hopes to have it completed by the end of the month. An open house is planned for the first weekend in May.