MILAN, Ind. — Through a new fundraising campaign, neighbors in Milan, Indiana, are coming together after the Hog Rock Cafe, a popular local watering hole, was destroyed by an overnight fire.
Firefighters said the blaze started on the second floor of the building and later spread to the roof. By the time fire teams arrived at 10 p.m. Wednesday, the fire had become so hot that no one could enter the building. Crews battled the blaze from outside until the early morning, and part of the structure collapsed overnight. No one was injured in the fire.
"It's a good business -- did everything for the community, did fundraisers and everything ... it's a complete loss," said Firefighter Elan Bogenries with the Dillsboro Fire Department.
Regulars and former employees stopped by on Thanksgiving morning, not long after firefighters were able to extinguish the flames, to see what remained.
“Not only have we lost a local business that struggled through and made it through COVID, now we’ve lost a definite landmark and we’ve lost a lot of history,” said Mrala Eedoch, who worked at the restaurant as a teen.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Jason Ellison said his focus now is on a comeback for the local landmark.
Ellison, who is coordinating a fundraiser to help the restaurant, said the community lost more than just a building in the fire -- it lost a business that owners and staff rely on.
"That's their livelihood,” Ellison said. “That's their family. (Owners) Jeff and Chrissy (Lanham) treat each and every one of them like family. If they're on hard times, they help. They do what they can to make sure their employees are good."
And through the years, Ellison said, Hog Rock has hosted coat drives to help the homeless and done a good deal of work around the town.
It's one of the reasons he likens the Hog Rock team to a family.
"Do anything in the world for you. That's the thing I like about them. Always there to lend a helping hand. If they know you're in trouble, what can we do to help?" he said.
Through a GoFundMe page, “Hog Rock Strong,” Ellison hopes to collect donations for the owners and staff members during the holidays.
"I'm sure Hog Rock will come back, and when it does it'll be bigger and better than ever. But right now, they're focused on the here and now."
Ellison said they are planning an event to raise money and donate gifts for the children of impacted employees, scheduled now for Dec. 12.
In a Facebook post later on Thanksgiving, Hog Rock owners thanked the community for the outpouring of support.
"We are devastated and heartbroken, but the love we’ve received gives us hope. We want to thank everyone that has called, messaged, stopped by, and shared so many special memories of Hog Rock. Thank you to all the first responders that worked so hard to try to save our building. We love you all and are blessed to have each of you in our lives," read the message, capped with the hashtag "hogrockstrong."