By Dan Bewley, The News On 6
STROUD, OK -- The countdown is on as a popular Route 66 restaurant is about to reopen after being nearly destroyed by a fire.
On May 20, 2008, the Rock Cafe nearly burned to the ground, tearing apart a piece of Oklahoma history.
Rock Cafe owner Dawn Welch has been putting the puzzle back for a little more than a year.
"As I was watching it burn down, I just kept saying that I hope the four walls and the grill made it through and that's the two things that were salvaged," said Welch.
The Rock Cafe has stood along Route 66 since 1939. Welch is its third owner, taking over 15 years ago.
Walking away after the fire was never an option, Welch says.
"If you've watched the movie Cars then you'd know that would not be the Sally thing to do," said Welch.
Sally is a character from the Disney movie Cars. The producers were so inspired by Welch's love for Route 66, they based Sally on Welch herself.
The new Rock Cafe will be the same as the old, she says. The original grill still works and the windows date to when the Rock Cafe opened in the '30s.
Putting the pieces together was the job of preservationist David Burke.
"All we had was photos and no blueprints, no drawings, so we pretty much had to wing it," said David Burke, a historic preservationist.
Even though it's still days from reopening, the Rock Cafe remains a draw to tourists looking to take in a bit of history and impressed with Welch's determination.
"I can't wait to come back when it's fully operational," said Terry Baker, a Stillwater resident.
"I think it's awesome that she cares enough to put all the work into rebuilding it," said Courtney Baker, a Stillwater resident.
Welch says preserving Route 66 starts by saving buildings like this. She hopes others follow her lead.
"Absolutely, that's my main goal. That was my main goal the day that it burned down is that, don't let this stuff get away from us. It can be salvaged and it can be brought back to life," said Welch.
Welch is hoping the Rock Cafe will open Friday, in time for breakfast. In the meantime, she says, feel free to stop by for a visit.