LOWER ALSACE TWP., Pa. - A family-owned restaurant that's known for helping others in need is, itself, feeling the love from the community it serves and its legion of loyal customers.
Part of Klinger's on Carsonia was gutted by fire early Sunday morning. Fortunately, firefighters were able to contain much of the fire damage to the kitchen of the restaurant at 721 Carsonia Avenue in Lower Alsace Township.
In the hours that followed the fire, the restaurant's Facebook page was flooded with notes of care and concern and offers to help the owners in any way they can. Some even showed up in person.
"When we pulled into the parking lot, there had to be 20, 30, 40 people. I can't even tell you how many. It's kind of hard to start seeing through the tears when we just pulled up and saw everybody just sitting there waiting to help us," co-owner Mark Klinger told 69 News.
The restaurant posted a message on its sign, letting concerned customers know that "We will be back."
It won't, however, be easy. The kitchen will have to be rebuilt, and the floor and ceiling in the dining room will have to be replaced because of extensive smoke and water damage.
Mark Klinger said it could be a couple months before his family's flagship restaurant and bar can reopen.
"We're hoping to be back better than ever soon," he said.
In the meantime, many are expressing their concern for the employees.
"While the insurance will probably be able to help cover some of their lost wages, any additional help our amazing community can provide will be undoubtedly appreciated," said the restaurant's resident magician, Matty Whipple, who launched a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe to help the employees get by until they can get back to work.
Mark Klinger said his family is also doing everything it can to help the Carsonia employees, moving many of them to its other locations -- Klinger's of Fleetwood at 24 East Main Street in Fleetwood and Klinger's at the Airport, located in the Reading Regional Airport terminal in Bern Township.
"I just want to get everything up and going back to normal so these employees have everything that they need and are used to," said Mark Klinger.
Klinger's was closed at the time of the fire early Sunday morning, but a man who rents the apartment above the restaurant was home. Tommy Kane was able to get out safely, but he lost all his furniture and many of his belongings to the fire. A separate GoFundMe page has been set up to help him.
The township fire marshal said the blaze was caused by either a gas leak or an electrical problem.
Klinger's has been known for its community involvement, hosting a variety of fundraisers each year, including its annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast and Labor Day golf scramble, both of which benefit Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The restaurant also took part in efforts to help raise money and collect donations for a neighbor and his son as they recovered from being hit by a car on Carsonia Avenue over the summer.
"Anytime any tragedy happens to anybody in the area, there's always such a great outreach," said Mark Klinger. "I just never thought we'd be on this side of it."
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