Early Morning Fire Guts Pizza Man

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For the past 43 years, it's been a favorite place for families to dine, the home of many community fundraisers and a successful family-owned business.

Although much of that rich history was destroyed by an early morning fire, May 4, the Chandler families hope to have Pizza Man open later this year.

"As of right now, our plans are to reopen," said Jeff Chandler of Litchfield, who owns the restaurant with his brother, Scott.

The Pizza Man restaurant was opened in Litchfield on Aug. 8, 1972, by Scott and Jeff's parents, Lowell and Kathleen Chandler. Jeff said he's hopeful if things fall into place, they could celebrate a reopening of the restaurant on its anniversary, Aug. 8, of this year.

Members of the Litchfield Fire Department were dispatched to the restaurant around 12:30 a.m. on Monday morning, May 4, responding to a call of a burning trash odor in the area. Firefighters were on scene until 3 a.m., and then again later that morning as part of the fire rekindled.

Chandler said the fire originated in the kitchen, and state fire investigators continue to investigate what caused the fire. He said they have video surveillance inside the restaurant, which actually showed the fire begin.

At this time, the families are unsure if the entire restaurant will have to be rebuilt or just the inside gutted.

"We're not 100 percent sure what will happen right now," said Jeff Chandler. "It will have to be gutted from the roof all the way down. The heat got so hot in the fire that it melted the steel beams in the roof above the kitchen area. But we still might have a frame left."

In a Facebook message, seen by more than 25,000 fans, Scott Chandler offered his thanks to members of the Litchfield Fire Department, the Litchfield Volunteer Fire Department, the Litchfield Police Department and local EMTs.

"We know several of them, and the words they offered were kind and thoughtful," Scott wrote.

At this time, both Scott and Jeff are most concerned about their employees, and trying to help them and their families. The restaurant employed about 25 local residents.

Two Go Fund Me sites have been set up online to help rebuild the restaurant and also to help the employees that were displaced in the fire.

The entire Chandler family is grateful to the community, not only for their 43 years of business, but also for the outpouring of support since Monday's fire.

"We have always supported the community," Jeff said. "But the support we have received in return has just been outstanding. Everyone wants to know when, where and how they can help."

He said they would provide more information in the coming days, weeks and months to the community.

"People are insisting they get to help us because they have such great memories here," Jeff said.

During its 43-year history, the Christian Church of Litchfield was started inside the restaurant.

"We have faith that God will provide for our needs," Jeff said. "He will continue to lead us and bless us."

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