Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

The Inland Cafe is a blank canvas, and owner Kristi Hensley is eager to start filling the empty space.

But she can’t pick up the palette and the brushes just yet.

Although her thoughts lean more to tables, chairs and menus.

The Inland, at 2715 10th St., was severely damaged in a fire Jan. 13.

Initially Hensley wondered whether she and her husband, Chris, who bought the popular restaurant in November 2007, would be able to reopen.

The Inland, which is known for its breakfasts, has been in business since about 1942.

But the Hensleys soon learned that their insurance coverage would allow them to rebuild the Inland. The policy also is paying their employees’ wages in the meantime.

The insurance company hired a contractor to clean up the seating area, which sustained smoke and water damage.

Workers stripped that area to the wooden framing.

“It’s gutted,” Kristi Hensley said. “There’s nothing left in there. It’s down to the 2 by 4s.”

But the rebuild has been postponed for the past couple weeks, she said, because the insurance company, in part due to recent wintry weather, hasn’t been able to have a fire investigator tour the Inland.

Baker City Fire Chief John Clark said the fire was accidental, and started in a swamp cooler on the restaurant’s roof.

Hensley said the insurance investigator will remove the swamp cooler as well as the griddle vent system. That section of the building, which sustained significant fire damage, won’t be cleaned up until the investigator has examined it, Hensley said.

“We’re just waiting,” she said Monday afternoon.

The project isn’t completely on hold, however.

Hensley said the engineer designing the reconstruction has already ordered some materials, and is working with the city’s building department to obtain permits.

Hensley has also posted several updates on the Inland Cafe’s Facebook page.

These include a Feb. 3 post in which Hensley, citing “boredom” as she waits for the reconstruction to start, asks people to suggest ideas for decorating the revitalized restaurant.

Hensley said that despite the recent delays, she still hopes to reopen the Inland by June 1.