April 18, 2024
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By Lauren Brensel

An electrical fire on Tuesday caused serious damage to a landmark restaurant in Williston that had operated out of the home for 30 years. The establishment will now be shut down indefinitely.

Williston Fire Rescue Chief Lamar Stegall stated that the fire started in the pantry of The Ivy House Restaurant around 4:22 pm, after the restaurant had closed its doors for more than two hours. No one was present.

Williston lies about 20 miles south of Gainesville.

Stegall stated that the fire started as an electrical fire in the vicinity of a drying machine, which caused heavy smoke to fill the air and significant damage at the rear of the restaurant. Stegall stated that a witness who was driving past Ivy House noticed the smoke, and immediately called the Fire Department. Within minutes, 20 firefighters were on the scene to put out the fire.

WUFT obtained photos of damage to the pantry, which shows it covered with soot. Also visible are pieces of insulation that have fallen off the wall.

Waica Huggins, owner of Ivy House, said that the staff at Ivy House felt fortunate the fire had been contained.

She said, “It really was a blessing.” The house was built in 1912 with lighter wood. There is not enough water to douse the fire in Williston if it got [to] this part. “It would have gone away.”

Ivy House, a Williston institution, was founded by Marjorie Ann Ray “Mimi” Hale, Huggins’ grandmother, who passed away in June. According to Hale’s obituary, she opened Ivy House 1993 in the former house of her father. It is known for its southern-style decor and food. The restaurant has a sister in Ocala.

Amanda Arnett Edwards says her family goes to the Ivy House twice a week in Williston, a journey that takes her almost two hours from St. Augustine. Ivy House was also her first choice for taking her newborns.

She said that it was like going to a restaurant in which you are just a number. It was sad to learn that this family had suffered such a tragedy.

Huggins says she doesn’t know how long Ivy House will be operating, but the staff hopes to have it open for Thanksgiving. She added that the restaurant’s 20 employees were eager to return and clean up while still on pay.

She said, “It is a tradition that my grandmother began.” We’ll have it up and running soon.

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