Family-Run Restaurant Destroyed By Fire

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the fire that destroyed most of a strip mall on Old Porter Pike in Bowling Green -- including a restaurant.

"It was just a little country cafe. It was just simple," said Len Harriford, who is an owner of Mama Helen.

Sunday night flames destroyed Mama Helen, a family-run restaurant in Bowling Green that opened five years ago.

"Everything went through our minds. I couldn't sleep at all that night. It was just a shock," said Betty Britt, Harriford's sister and owner of Mama Helen.

The sisters who own it named it after their mother, who died less than a year before it opened.

They say they cooked her recipes to keep her memory alive.

"Some recipes we've got in our head, but a lot we don't. They got burned up," they explained.

Pots they cooked in, now destroyed, were also hers. So were quilts she made that hung in the restaurant and are now ashes.

The sisters say it's those things they'll miss most -- along with their customers.

They had many regular customers.

The Wallaces ate there every week for the last five years.

"Our customers were able to talk to the cooks and the owners all at the same time, and we had customers say it was like coming to sit around their mom's table," Harriford said.

"You go into a normal restaurant and you sit down and eat at your table and everybody else eats at theirs. You go in here and there's eight or nine tables and everybody's talking to each other and having a good time just like a family reunion," said Jim Wallace.

The owners are waiting to hear from the insurance company and hoping they'll be able to open again.

"If this don't happen, that's one thing we'll have to look at, is going out and trying to find a job just to be able to support ourselves," Harriford said.

They're asking for prayers of strength to get them through.

Several other businesses, including Vivid Hair Salon, a daycare and a church were also destroyed by the fire, according to officials.

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