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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — As business returned to usual for most area shops and restaurants after Hurricane Florence, some had to wait on repairs and were effectively closed for the rest of 2018.
After hurricane damages forced several local businesses to close, some were able to open just before the year’s end.
On New Year’s Eve, The Kettle Diner reopened in Jacksonville, welcoming regulars and newcomers alike.
Jaleena and Randy Hudson, of Jacksonville, came back to enjoy breakfast that Monday morning after waiting for the diner to reopen.
“We’ve been stalking Facebook,” Jaleena Hudson joked. “We usually come once a week, if not more.”
She said she and her husband almost planned an early morning to have breakfast when the diner opened at 6 a.m., but decided to go a little later and catch up with all the staff. As restaurant patrons for nearly 20 years, Hudson said she’s seen many of the waitresses get married and start their families just by coming to eat every week.
General Manager Dawn Mitchell was busy greeting customers Monday morning and said she was happy to see everyone.
“We’re so glad to be back,” Mitchell said.
For the Oguno family, it was their first visit to The Kettle, but they had brought their children along to enjoy breakfast Monday.
“This is our first time here, but we’ve been in Jacksonville,” Frank Oguno said.
Terrance and his spouse Gary Bowens were also there to share breakfast Monday morning.
Gary Bowens said it was first time to the diner. Terrance Bowens said the meal wasn’t quite planned around the grand opening, but was happy to see the diner open.
“We didn’t know (about the opening) until we drove past and noticed they’re open again, so I was like OK, let’s go here,” Terrance Bowens said.
For many customers, the reopening was about coming back to the restaurant they loved. Ralph and Judy Button said they came back to see everyone and order their favorite breakfast items.
“There’s just not many good breakfast places in Jacksonville,” Ralph Button said.
And, they were glad to see the diner had pulled through its hurricane damages. The Buttons said they made it through Florence OK, despite some heavy flooding in their yard on Catherine Lake Road.
“It still hasn’t really gone down, but that’s OK,” Judy Button said.
Other restaurants, like the Icehouse in Swansboro, will have to wait a while longer.
Randy Swanson, owner of the Icehouse, said he does not quite have a reopening date yet, but is planning to open in 2019 and is getting designs laid out.
Also in Swansboro, Candy Edventure has been shutdown since Florence, only opening for special events. Owners of the shop said they did not have a date nailed down yet, but were hoping to open by the end of the month.
For larger venues, a grand opening is scheduled already. The Tarheel concert lounge will reopen Feb. 14, 2019, with Drake White playing that same day.
Aaron Flahardy, who oversees marketing for the Tarheel, said the venue suffered roof damages during the hurricane which led to flooding inside and water damage.
“It had a domino effect, it was kind of one those situations where a small spot can turn into a gallon,” Flahardy said.
But, with repairs making progress, he said the Tarheel will be back up and running by Valentine’s day.
“We’re very much excited and a lot of people have been asking for it (to open),” Flahardy said.
In fact, he said a Facebook post on Christmas day gathered 487 likes in 24 hours when he started to tease out the reopening and requested at least 50 likes to announce the next shows.
In Sneads Ferry, Facebook posts have been teasing out the reopening of the Riverview Cafe. The cafe is planning to open by Jan. 7.
At the Jacksonville Mall, anchor stores Belk and Barnes & Noble have been closed since Florence passed through. Both are set to reopen this spring, according to Jacksonville Mall marketing director Christine Paules.
Requests for comment from store representatives were not returned by deadline.