COLUMBIA — Charlie Enochs has spent the last month searching for a new home.
He's been to the Waffle House. He tried Perche Creek Yacht Club a few times.
"It's just different," Enochs said. "Just the way they prepare their food, the people that work there, I don't know any of them. Lucy's is more like a home place for me, because I live alone."
Enochs might have Lucy's withdrawal syndrome.
He and other steadfast customers of Lucy's Corner Cafe, 522 E. Broadway, were upended last month when a small fire and a leaky roof closed the restaurant temporarily. Some of those customers had been regulars at Lucy's for years.
“It’s a little inconvenient,” said Rex Taggart, who has been eating breakfast at the cafe every weekday for more than eight years. “You've got to deal with it, I guess.”
After the near-blizzard in early February, snow began leaking into the restaurant. Then, between 6 and 10 a.m. on Feb. 3, a fire of unknown origin caused extensive smoke damage throughout the dining rooms.
“If we had been open, there wouldn’t have been a fire. Or I would’ve been here,” said owner Lucy Reddick this week.
"The fire put itself out with a little help from the snow," she said.
Now undergoing renovations, Lucy's owners hope the restaurant will reopen at the end of March or early April.
Since Feb. 3, Reddick and her landlords have put more than $70,000 into remodeling the place, installing new ceiling fans and windows, restoring the brick inside the cafe and removing the recessed ceiling in the back dining room.
Reddick has dealt with fire damage and closure before.
Five years ago, a fire caused by faulty electrical wiring closed the restaurant for three weeks.
A police officer driving on Broadway saw the fire through a window and rushed in with an extinguisher.
“It was a big mess,” Reddick said. The combination of a fire extinguisher and the built-in fire protection system ruined most of the cooking appliances and equipment.
That incident cost the restaurant around $50,000 in repairs and replacements, including a new fryer, grill, stove and cooler.
Still, Reddick has managed to keep Lucy’s a friendly place with small-town ambiance.
Enochs, a native of Columbia, has been eating there daily for more than five years.
“It’s a big extended family,” he said. “We talk about baseball, football; it’s a really homey atmosphere. It’s got a personal touch to it that most places don’t have.”
It's an ongoing joke that Reddick keeps track of her customers the way a teacher marks class attendance.
“People get unexcused absences if they don’t show up,” she said with a laugh. “If they’re not here, we call them.”
The time it is taking to remodel the restaurant, though, worries her.
“People are creatures of habit,” Reddick said. “When they find a place they like, they want to go there.”
Taggart said he's not searching for a new breakfast spot.
“As soon as Lucy’s gets back open, I’ll be back,” he said.