Fire destroys Emory’s restaurant

  • By Jackson Holtz and Debra Smith Herald Writers
  • Tuesday, November 10, 2009 12:01am
  • Local NewsEverett

EVERETT — Emory’s restaurant, a Silver Lake fixture for the past 15 years known for its waterfront deck, warm service and stiff martinis, was destroyed Monday by an early morning fire.

Flames crowded the dining room and burst onto the deck. Thick black smoke rose over the lake and by sunrise only the burnt shell of the restaurant remained standing.

“It’s devastating,” said owner Emory Cole, of Mukilteo. “You just never think this is going to happen to you.”

A note Monday on the restaurant’s Web site said, “We are out of business indefinitely.”

Emory’s opened in 1994 on the site of the former Silver Beach Resort, a private park dating back to the 1930s. The resort offered cabins for rent and a swimming dock with a giant wheel and a 20-foot slide, said local historian Jack O’Donnell.

The restaurant began as a dream when Cole was the mayor of Mukilteo in the late 1980s, he said.

He’d learned about economic development in the region and hunted out real estate to begin his own restaurant business.

The acreage beside Silver Lake on a busy street seemed perfect and it already was zoned for a restaurant. Still, it took years to get the proper permits.

Emory’s, which featured Mediterranean and Asian-inspired cuisine, quickly became a popular hangout for locals. People came to pass warm summer evenings on the restaurant’s deck and enjoy live music.

“It’s a real loss of a signature gathering place for south Everett residents,” Mayor Ray Stephanson said.

Stephanson said he often dined at the lakefront restaurant and was friendly with the owner and his wife. He was saddened by news of the fire.

“I’m just sick about it,” he said. “My heart goes out to them.”

Fire investigators were trying Monday to determine what sparked the early morning blaze.

Flames were first reported around 4:20 a.m. Firefighters rushed to the scene and arrived to find the building engulfed. Thick black smoke rose high above the lake and a stiff morning breeze pushed the column to the north.

More fire crews were summoned. By the time the flames were knocked down, it was a three-alarm emergency.

Firefighters from around Snohomish County helped Everett’s crews battle the blaze.

The racket woke up Shannon Chou, a neighbor who lives across Silver Lake from the popular restaurant.

She first heard popping noises and then sirens. By the time she peered outside, the restaurant was ablaze.

“It was frightening,” she said. “I was actually afraid.”

A ringing phone Monday woke up Cole. He rushed to his business expecting nothing more serious than a false alarm.

“I couldn’t believe what I saw,” he said.

Monday was to be Cole’s first day back at work after a European vacation. He and his wife, Molly, just returned Friday.

“What a thing to come back to,” he said.

Now Cole is concerned how the 50 people who rely on him for a paycheck will survive.

“They aren’t going to have a very good Christmas,” Cole said.

Until this morning’s fire, the restaurant’s staff was gearing up for the holiday season, and starting to book tables for the Thanksgiving meal.

While small flames still licked at the building Monday morning, several employees gathered in a cold drizzle. They said the business was like a family.

Now, former waiters and bartenders said they’ll have to update resumes and start trying to find new jobs in a slumping economy.

By mid-morning, Barbara Vanells, who lives in the Silver Lake neighborhood, and her sister Michelle McSpadden braved heavy rain to visit the site. McSpadden’s son called early Monday morning to tell her about the fire.

“I was devastated,” she said.

The sisters were regular customers. They said the place always offered good service.

“It was the only nice place to eat right around here,” Vanells said.

Cole said he’ll have to wait for insurance officials to examine the building’s remains and determine the next steps.

Stephanson said he was already hearing rumblings that Cole will rebuild.

“I sure hope he does,” the mayor said.

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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