Fire forces Arnie’s Happy Spot to start over in Deer Grove

DEER GROVE, Illinois -- Crews will demolish what's left of a popular chicken dinner restaurant here in coming days. That's after fire destroyed Arnie's Happy Spot after the close of business early Monday, July 23, 2018.

Now, the landmark business must start from scratch.

"It's a loss to the community," said Larry Whitebread, who owned the business from 1999 until May 2018.

High above it on Tuesday, July 24, the view reveals the damage of a fire that started in the dining room.

"It burned all the way down to the basement," said owner Rick Lance.

Charred rubble is all that's left of the popular chicken eatery that debuted more than 80 years ago.

"From about the middle of the dining room, all the way back to the banquet room, the roof is gone," he continued.

Firefighters had to battle smoke and flames during the overnight fire.  On Tuesday, their water was still filling an outdoor ashtray.

"Their were 17 different departments here, hauling water in and back and forth," Lance said.

As he opens the door on Tuesday, there's nothing left of the business he bought just two months ago.

"It's tough," he said.  "It's how you feed your family."

While insurance will help to rebuild, there's no replacing generations of memorabilia.  Some photos and memories live on from special events, wedding receptions and legendary fried chicken dinners.

"We had the best price, best food, the most food of anybody," Whitebread said.  "That's why we were always busy."

Rick and Angie Lance will close the door on one era and start another.  One day, they hope to put the smile back at Arnie's Happy Spot.

"Arnie's Two," they chuckled.

Best of all, they promise that their secret recipe for fried chicken will return.

"If the colonel had our recipe, he'd be a general," Whitebread concluded.