In the days after fire destroyed a beloved Rockmart restaurant, the response from local leaders and members of the Polk County business community was heard loud and clear.
Just hours after the last flames were extinguished at the Pizza Farm Restaurant on Knox Mountain Road, work began to try and find ways to help the employees who lost their jobs at the old-style farmhouse themed eatery.
An early morning fire on Jan. 9 ravaged the nearly 50-year-old establishment, gutting the inside and causing most of the roof to collapse. Polk County Fire Chief Randy Lacey said the building’s tin roof and water supply problems hindered their response, but the fire had become too intense by the time the first firefighters arrived.
An investigation into the exact cause of the fire was still ongoing as of Friday. Owner Tommy Sanders has said publicly that he intends to rebuild.
The hashtag “#pizzafarmstrong” became the rallying cry for those who sought to show support and assist the restaurant’s servers, cooks, and staff.
The first big movement came from the Cedarstream Company and Jenny Burch, who created special shirts and hoodies featuring the Pizza Farm logo and the motto “Pizza Farm Strong” to sell with all of the proceeds going toward Pizza Farm employees.
The sale, which was set to end at midnight on Monday, Jan. 18, raised more than $7,600 in the first 12 hours it was live online. The amount raised surpassed $16,000 as of Sunday.
An account has also been set up at Century Bank in Rockmart with the money raised used to assist employees while they are out of work.
Local government boards and the Polk County Board of Education met for their regular meetings last week, with many expressing their thoughts about the loss of the institution.
During the Polk County Commission’s meeting last Tuesday, Commissioner Scotty Tillery thanked the work of all of the firefighters who were on the scene for more than eight hours and worked through hardships to bring the fire under control.
“It is really a landmark that we’ve lost,” Tillery said. “I look forward to their future plans.”
Commissioner Ray Carter echoed those sentiments and wanted the county to look into the problems faced by firefighters during the blaze.
“When you go to another county around here and say that you’re from Polk County, one of the things you hear is, ‘Oh, Pizza Farm,’” Carter said.
“The firefighters out there had to jump over some hurdles, and I think we owe it to our firefighters to understand what those are and see about coming together to eliminate those hurdles.”
While Carter mentioned the personnel of the county’s volunteer fire department as one part of the problem, he said the “bigger monster” was how water is delivered across the county.
Lacey said they were only able to run a limited hose line from the fire hydrant closest to the restaurant — about 500 feet south on Knox Mountain road — because of the available water pressure.
Tanker trucks shuttled back and forth from the scene of the fire to Rockmart High School and Marquette Road at Ga. 113 to bring water to collapsible tanks.
Sanders, who is a longtime member of the Polk County Board of Education, was absent from last Tuesday’s board meeting.
“Please keep Tommy and the members of your family in your thoughts,” board of education Chair J.P Foster said. “May God bless them.”