A popular country restaurant, the Sawmill Family Restaurant in Wiggins, survived Katrina, but didn't weather one of its tornadoes very well.|
"The insurance company determined it was a tornado. We've replaced everything," said owner Elaine Beckham. "It took most of the front porch. We've rebuilt or replaced some walls, replaced flooring, the roof and the ceilings."
If you were worried about Luther, a large wooden alligator that greeted guests in the front area, Beckham says he came through fine.
The Sawmill was built in 1983 or '84 and Beckham purchased it in 1998. The building was once a Christian bookstore and a clothing store.
This is not the kind of damage Beckham expected.
"We've always fed relief workers after storms," she said. "Mississippi Power called me two days before and asked if I would be open to feed the workers. I ordered extra food."
Three employees did not return because the Sawmill was closed for six months.
"At first I wasn't going to reopen, but I couldn't walk away from it," Beckham said, Although the walls made from wood produced at a former sawmill on the property had to be replaced with poplar and cedar, the restaurant still has the old look.
"The 20-foot ceilings in the front are now 12 and we have new tables and chairs," Beckham said. "It's got a whole new look to it, but it also looks the same."
For now, the restaurant will close mid-afternoons and all day on Wednesdays.
"We will still serve the same home-style food like our special hamburger steak," Beckham said, "but for now we have a limited menu."
- NANCY BOSARGE