Brandon, Florida -- The name Ben's Family Restaurant is just that -- a place where everyone in the community feels like part of the family.
On this day, a group hug was taking part outside.
"These people are sweethearts. Made you feel so at home, just like a family," said one of many customers who drove through the restaurant parking lot today, trying to get a glimpse of the damage.
For 30 years, this Brandon institution along the 700 block of East Brandon Boulevard, is where community members came, not just for a bite to eat, but for camaraderie, friendship, and a place to call home for awhile.
"They sometimes even sit down and talk with you while you eat!" said one customer.
That makes what happened Monday night so much harder to bear. $900,000 worth of damage from a 2-alarm fire. The origin: the attic, with the cause still unknown. The building is being called a total loss.
"We were just devastated. We've been coming here for almost 30 years," cried one woman clutching a small child.
"I wouldn't believe it. Oh, Jesus. I couldn't believe it," said another man shaking his head.
Customer after customer stopped by today to take photos and recall their personal memories, like the restaurant's famous chicken and eggs breakfast, and how Ben's had been a tradition in their family.
"After bowling, it was our favorite place to go," said one woman sitting in her car.
The flowers outside, meticulously planted by the owners, now serve as a symbol
"I'm sure with the Lord's help, we'll get it back again. God doesn't give you anything you can't get past." said the woman with a small child in tow.
The owners were too shaken to comment on camera, but say they're thankful the fire department is just a few yards away and were able to respond quickly.
As for reopening, they want to, but say they're overwhelmed, and it's too soon to say for sure what'll happen next.