Owners of Sanford's Red Oak Restaurant get help cleaning up, rebuilding

SANFORD (WJRT) (5/22/2020) - Owners of a landmark Sanford restaurant found they're not alone as they start the clean-up process after devastating flooding in downtown area.

The owners of Sanford's Red Oak Restaurant had to evacuate in the middle of dinner service Tuesday evening. They returned to a big mess left behind by floodwaters on Thursday.

After the Edenville Dam broke and the nearby Sanford Dam breached on Tuesday evening, the water level at Red Oak Restaurant quickly rose to about 7 feet.

The water receded on Thursday, revealing a layer of mud and silt covering the restaurant's floors. Floodwaters damaged or destroyed many of the fixtures inside -- from tables and chairs to appliances and cookware.

Like most Michigan restaurants, Red Oak already was reeling from coronavirus restrictions that banned inside dining since March.

"We were open for takeout. We had about 10 tickets on the line and people trying to get in and get food," owner Melissa Ayotte said. "They came in yelling to evacuate us, and when the Edenville Dam broke, pretty much in five minutes, we had to shut the power off and scramble to do whatever we could."

Elsewhere in Sanford, Ayotte said Kohl's and Laney's were in much worse shape while Puchies Pit Stop "is pretty much gone."

Ayotte and her father, Kevin, have been quarantining together and both were at restaurant when they were told to evacuate Tuesday evening.

"I never thought, I'd see anything like this in my lifetime," Kevin Ayotte said. "The building is just totally -- everything is just turned upside down full of mud. But the structure held up pretty good."

The restaurant that has been serving the Sanford community for almost 50 years. It is now their turn to take a seat, as the community has stepped up and come to their aid in a big way.

"We had a lot of people asking if they could donate their time or their funds, so we did start a GoFundMe page today," Kevin said. "We can't even express the gratitude for that. Also, everyone just wanting to help."

The Ayottes say it take them a while reopen, but it's something they will look forward to.

"We got our work cut out for us," Kevin said. "We'll get her cleaned up and go from there."