Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

The only permanent casualties of the Jan. 13 fire at the Inland Cafe might be the orange booths.

Depending on your feelings about that particular shade for restaurant decor, this might not qualify as a loss, said Kristi Hensley, who owns the Inland.

Hensley can joke about those smoke-ruined booths because the news she received Monday was the best kind — better, in fact, than she had expected.

Not only will contractors be able to rebuild the popular cafe at 2715 10th St., but Hensley’s insurance company will pay her employees’ average salaries while crews are putting up new walls and laying new flooring.

“It’s a huge relief,” Hensley said Tuesday morning. “The employees were just ecstatic.”

Contractors are scheduled to start work at the Inland today.

Although she doesn’t have a specific timeline, Hensley said she’s optimistic that the cafe will reopen before June 1.

Cloie Christensen has worked as a waitress at the Inland for almost five years.

She said the past week has been a difficult period for employees as they waited to learn whether the Inland would reopen.

“It’s been a rough week, I won’t lie,” Christensen, 54, said Tuesday. “We’ve all been emotional, wondering how we’re going to pay our bills.”

Hensley’s announcement to employees that not only were their jobs safe, but they would be paid during the rebuilding, prompted a spontaneous celebration, Christensen said.

“It felt like a ton of bricks were lifted off our shoulders,” she said. “I’m very happy.”

Christensen said she’s eager to return to work and to serving customers.

“I love working there,” she said. “A lot of our customers are like our family members. It can’t get done fast enough.”

Pam Dodson agrees that it will be tough to be patient while workers are rebuilding the restaurant, which opened around 1942.

Dodson, 59, is an assistant manager and waitress. She has worked at the Inland for about 13 years, starting about a year before Hensley and her husband, Chris, bought the cafe in November 2007.

As she watched with other employees as smoke poured from the restaurant the night of Jan. 13, Dodson said she “just prayed Kristi could reopen.”

When Hensley told the employees that would happen, Dodson said she “just kind of cried.”

‘She always watches out for us all,” she said of Hensley.

Like Dodson, Jodi Flynn’s tenure at the Inland started before the Hensleys bought the cafe in 2007.

Flynn, 48, had already worked at the Inland for about 2 years. The Hensleys, she recalls, took over as owners on Flynn’s birthday.

Flynn said that when a co-worker told her on the night of Jan. 13 that the Inland was on fire, “I didn’t believe it.”

But then she drove to the site.

“You feel sick,” said Flynn, who works as a server. “It’s kind of like my second home, and now I think I’m never going to get to go back.”

See more in the Jan. 23, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.