By: Rob Moore and Dean Dyer
J.W. Reeds, located at the corner of North Main Street (U.S. 129) and Ga. 75, has operated for decades and formerly was known as Gateway Restaurant but better known as Ma Gooch’s.
The fire was reported just before 11 AM and numerous fire units from the City of Cleveland, White County, and Lee Arrendale Fire Department responded.
Owner Ed Ward said on the scene “ It’s very heartbreaking after 27 years of being in business, it’s a tragedy. It’s very sad, I’m just really glad everybody got out ok and nobody got hurt. It’s very heartbreaking.” Ward’s wife Regina and another employee were inside the restaurant getting prepared to open for business and did not realize the building was on fire, because they had the kitchen exhaust fan on, until someone came running from M Star Motel located just behind the restaurant and banged on the door alerting them. When the two exited the building the whole place was filled with smoke said, Regina. One firefighter told them they were minutes from being trapped inside the building.
Ed Ward told reporters “It’s just a sad, sad situation, I hate it for Cleveland, I hate if for White County it’s a staple here. “ Ward talked about the struggle to get to where they were, “Being Ma Goochs forever and having to change the concept getting in the fight with the city about the alcohol was very difficult we got through it we started going back up and business was doing very well and now this to happen it’s a major setback “
Chief Pruitt suffered a pulled hamstring and injuries to his hands when he fell running to get a fire truck out of the fire station to respond to the blaze said: “ Upon our arrival, it had almost vented through the roof so it had been burning for quite a while.”
North Main Street and Helen Highway near the restaurant was shut down to traffic for about four hours while firefighters battled the blaze. The road was reopened to traffic just before 3 PM.