Calico County was forced to shutdown after a fire damaged the restaurant early Monday morning.
Police were alerted to the fire after receiving a call from an alarm company that a commercial burglary alarm went off at approximately 2:37 a.m. Monday, according to dispatchers with the Fort Smith Police Department.
Fort Smith police arrived at the scene and alerted the fire department when smoke was seen coming from the building.
Fort Smith Department Battalion Chief Tery Graves said responders quickly put out the flames, however, the restaurant suffered severe smoke and water damage.
According to a preliminary investigation, the fire appeared to have started in the kitchen area of the restaurant.
The Fort Smith Fire Marshal plans to investigate Monday to determine what sparked the fire.
Calico County partner Scott Blair said the restaurant has approximately 60 employees. For many, this job is their primary source of income.
“This is my main source of income, so I’ve got to just do what I can do now," said Jay Houston, a cook at the restaurant. "It’s the main income for a lot of people.”
“I’m going to have to try hard to find another job so I can provide income for my Christmas presents for my family,” said restaurant employee Kendra Johnson.
Many of the employees say it will be challenging to be out of work while the restaurant rebuilds, but they're also concerned about not seeing their co-workers during that time.
“Everyone here is like a family," said Logan LaRoche whose family owns the restaurant. "We’re all best friends, and it’s more than just a job to most of the people who work here. A lot of the people have been here since opening, and we’re just all a big team.”
“To me it means more than just a job, it’s like my second home," said Johnson. "I’ve been working here for about two years now, and I’m going to miss it.”
The landmark restaurant has been in Fort Smith for decades. Calico County famously mentions serving millions of cinnamon rolls across the River Valley.
Houston is worried about the restaurant's regular customers whose orders he knows by heart.
"Where are they going to go eat now? I don't want them to start going elsewhere to eat."
Despite the damage owners remained positive, posting on the restaurant's Facebook page Monday, "Calico County suffered a severe fire that has forced us to close our doors for the time being. We will rebuild, and we ask for the support of our community during this time of need. We thank everyone for your continued support and look forward to once again serving our customers."
"Obviously it is not the best time of year for our employees to be in this situation, but we’re going to do everything we can to take care of them adequately,” said Blair.
Calico County is located at So. 56th Street near Rogers Avenue.