Fire destroys restaurant; owners hope to rebuild
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 6:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 6:53 p.m.
A blaze lit an iconic Calabash restaurant up Monday night, leaving the structure ruined and forcing the eatery to close its doors for the foreseeable future.
Beck's Restaurant, at the corner of River Road and Beach Drive Southwest, caught flame at 10:10 p.m.
"Beck's means everything in the world. Beck's was the first restaurant in Calabash. It's like the bridge going into Wilmington," said Keith Hardee, one of the restaurant's owners. "It's one of the better Calabash seafood restaurants, and I don't know what we're going to do without it."
The exact cause of the blaze is officially undetermined after an investigation Tuesday, but Hardee said he was told it occurred when a smoldering electric wire in a false roof at the rear of the building caught flame.
Beck's was founded in 1940 by Ruth Beck, a member of the family that invented the lightly battered, deep-fried manner of cooking seafood that later became synonymous with Calabash.
Hardee and his wife, Sheryl, bought the restaurant after Beck died, keeping the business in the family.
"It's sentimental to my (late) wife because (Ruth Beck) was her aunt and she didn't have any kids. When she died it came up for sale and we bought it," Hardee said.
The current structure was swapped with where a portion of the parking lot sits now, and has been added to throughout the years, Hardee said.
Town officials said losing the restaurant could have a negative effect on Calabash's economy.
Chuck Nance, the town administrator, said, "I don't know how many people Beck's employs, but I imagine between the kitchen staff and the wait staff, it would be putting quite a few people out of jobs."
Mary Louise Knight, Calabash's mayor, was attending a conference in Charlotte when she received word of the fire early this morning. She immediately left, heading back to inspect the scene.
"I just couldn't believe that this would happen," Knight said. "It's so sad. Beck's is a cornerstone of our community."
Knight added that there are six Calabash-style seafood restaurants in the town, down from 23 at one point, and that losing another one would be a major hit.
Hardee doesn't plan for the restaurant to be closed for very long, though.
"I'm hoping to have it reopen by Easter. It can be done," he said. "We're just waiting on the insurance company."
Five fire companies responded to the blaze – Calabash, Grissettown, Horry County (S.C.), Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach. Shallotte and Waccamaw provided backup coverage while those companies fought the fire.
The companies battled the fire for nearly an hour and a half, continuing to put out hot spots throughout the night.
"It's a miracle that they contained the fire to this building and it didn't spread to the Grapevine," Knight said. "Not enough credit can go out to (the firefighters). They did a fine, fine job."
Adam Wagner: 343-2076
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.