Peel Wood Fired Pizza in O’Fallon has finished repairs and reopened Wednesday after a small dumpster fire temporarily halted all operations.
“It feels like a second grand opening,” co-owner Patrick Thirion said. “All the staff just wanted to get back and open … We all just kind of pulled together.”
Thirion was confident that the restaurant would be open in just a few days, despite having to replace flooring, clean equipment and restock food. The bulk of the cleaning was from his dedicated staff, working in shifts to remove any evidence of the fire. He also thanked both his contractors and the city of O’Fallon for “working around the clock to just get it done.”
Thirion believes the fire was started from ash that hadn’t been fully extinguished. The melted dumpster was still on site, but was slated to be removed by late afternoon. Major repairs to the exterior are still being worked out.
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As the intentionally overstaffed restaurant opened its doors promptly at 11 a.m., people started to file in to enjoy lunch. Many were unaware of the closing, but were pleased that it was open when they wanted to visit.
Jennifer Gaab, 49, and her son Braden, 13, were a bit restless to get back to her favorite restaurant. The Gaab family, including father Scott, 45, have been coming to Peel since it’s inception and were mildly distressed when they had to change their dinner plans the night of the fire.
“It was cramping our style,” Jennifer said, shooting a wink to her son. “We were anxiously awaiting their reopening, and we are glad it only took a week and a half.”
Their empathy for the brief closing comes from many years of what Scott calls “phenomenal service with both the owner and the staff.”
“Part of the concern we had was for the employees and their livelihood,” Scott said. “We know a lot of the service staff personally, and we had no idea whether this was going to be long or short for them.”
“It was just disbelief,” Braden added. “We were really worried … I’m just very happy that it opened up so quick because I really enjoy this place.”
Thirion shared that emotion and was pleased to see the restaurant finally reopened and back to business as usual.
“We’re just excited to be back open and ready to go,” Thirion said.