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MailTribune.com
  • Marie Callender's destroyed by early morning fire

  • Marie Callender's Restaurant & Bakery on Biddle Road burned to the ground early Saturday morning, but the popular restaurant will still be selling its famous flaky-crust pies in time for Christmas.
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  • Marie Callender's Restaurant & Bakery on Biddle Road burned to the ground early Saturday morning, but the popular restaurant will still be selling its famous flaky-crust pies in time for Christmas.
    "Call the restaurant and place your order ... we're still selling pies," said the restaurant's manager, who declined to give his name. "It's about staying committed to our community. We won't back down from this, we are taking it in stride with our heads up."
    Call the restaurant between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., and the phone will be answered, said the managers. The pies can be picked up — and others will be sold — from a Marie Callender's catering van during the three days leading up to Christmas in the nearby Applebee's parking lot, 1388 Biddle Road.
    The Redding-based owners of Marie Callender's, who could not be reached for comment, also own Applebee's in Medford, said Applebee's manager Dade Partridge.
    "This is where we were going to get Christmas dinner," said a devastated Marianne Eubanks of Medford, as she stood in front of the blackened restaurant Saturday and snapped photos with her phone and texted them to friends and family.
    "I guess we're going to have to figure out something else for dinner," said Eubanks. "I really hope they rebuild."
    The restaurant will be rebuilt, according to the manager, who consoled would-be customers in the parking lot Saturday, but it will be at least six months before Marie Callender's doors can reopen.
    The restaurant employed about 25 people, he said, a handful of whom will work through the closure to fill pie orders.
    "It's so sad, it just shocked the heck out of me. It was so intense, thank god there was nobody hurt," said Patricia O'Bryon, 66, of Medford, who has been eating at the restaurant since it opened in 1993.
    Prior to Marie Callender's opening 20 years ago, the building housed Wild Plum restaurant.
    "My boys and my ex-husband and I used to come here. ...We came here for our holiday pies," O'Bryon said.
    Jill Stout, 63, of Central Point, said she is going to miss the restaurant's Chinese chicken salad and prime rib.
    "It's just so completely burned from one end to the other," she said. "What is worse about this is the people who just lost their jobs two weeks before Christmas. It's just sad, because insurance isn't going to cover their salaries."
    According to Medford Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Ken Goodson, the restaurant at 1528 Biddle Road was fully involved and half the roof had already collapsed by the time fire crews arrived.
    No injuries were reported, and no cause has been determined, Goodson said.
    Medford Fire-Rescue investigators and Medford Police Department detectives were on scene Saturday trying to nail down the fire's point of origin and cause.
    Two fire engines and a battalion chief from Medford Fire-Rescue, along with two fire engines and a battalion chief from Jackson County Fire District No. 3, responded to the initial call at 3:11 a.m. Saturday.
    Medford's first engine arrived 7 minutes later and reported the structure fully involved, according to Medford Fire-Rescue Fire Marshal Greg Kleinberg.
    A second alarm brought additional help from neighboring jurisdictions, including Jacksonville.
    The building is considered a total loss, Goodson said.
    Peering in the restaurant through scorched window frames, onlookers could see where blackened roof beams had collapsed on top of mostly vaporized dinner tables, counters and kitchen equipment.
    Medford Fire-Rescue Captain Kevin Watt, who has worked as a firefighter in Medford for nearly 14 years, said the Marie Callender's inferno was the second worst fire he's seen in the city.
    "The warehouse on Front Street was the worst," he said, referring to the August 2002 fire that shot flames at least 100 feet into the air from the top of a former Pinnacle packing plant building at 11th and Front streets.
    "This one was pretty bad," said Watt, glancing up at the charred building skeleton and a melted Marie Callender's sign.
    Crews with Belfor Disaster Recovery and Property Restoration were piecing together a temporary fence around the building Saturday afternoon.
    Belfor boss Travis Fisher said the building was still smoldering when he arrived on scene at about 8:30 a.m.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwriter_swhlr.
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