Local News

Fire levels one Clinton landmark, damages another

Posted July 29, 2013 5:42 p.m. EDT
Updated July 29, 2013 6:33 p.m. EDT

— A fire early Monday destroyed a landmark diner in Clinton and damaged a neighboring Dairy Queen well known for its soft-serve ice cream machine.

Flames tore through the Waffle Kitchen, at 1835 Southeast Blvd., shortly after 1 a.m. Firefighters from three Sampson County fire departments were called in to help battle the blaze.

No injuries were reported.

Joan Wilson's parents opened the restaurant nearly two decades ago, and she has owned it for several years.

"I have customers who eat with me three times a day if I'm open," Wilson said as she surveyed the gutted building after the fire. "I just know the Lord is going to bless us in so many ways."

The Dairy Queen next door sustained smoke and water damage, and for Tamara Peterson, who runs the ice cream shop and whose in-laws started the business 60 years ago, even the relatively minor damage hurts.

"Most of the time, this has been (a starting point for) children who have come in," she said. "This has been their first job."

Peterson said she and her staff will have to get "Bessie" the soft-serve ice cream machine cranked up to see if she was damaged by the fire. It is considered the oldest ice cream machine in the South.

"That is the one thing we have to make work because that is the last thing left of the original store. Whatever it takes, we will have 'Bessie' up and chugging," she said.

State Bureau of Investigation agents and the Sampson County fire marshal are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.