Shari Segalle rushed to the Old River City cafe in the early morning hours of October 30 to see massive flames rising from her beloved restaurant.
Half the building was still standing when she finally got home.
But later in the morning the fire flared up again and destroyed everything.
Now, the restaurant that prides itself on comfort food and a family atmosphere is beginning a long road to rebuilding.
“At the end of the day, it’s just a building,” Segalle said. “But the hardest thing is what awaits our employees.”
Monte Good will perform at a fundraiser for the Old River City Cafe on November 15, 6-9 p.m. at Krause’s Cafe.
A $5 blanket is the suggested donation. All proceeds will go to rebuilding the cafe and supporting restaurant employees.
A family atmosphere
Segalle opened the restaurant in 1995 with business partner Alane Cameron, who died in 2020.
The restoration began in 1996 with a wedding dinner.
“This couple still comes to the restaurant and we’ve seen their kids grow up,” Segalle said.
Close relationships between staff and customers are a big part of why people love coffee, said Lauren Latiolais, who has worked in both the restaurant and catering.
“There are a lot of people coming every other day,” she said. “They had their tables and their orders and you really got to know them. It was like a big dysfunctional family.
The restaurant has offered live music for several years.
Local musician Monte Good performed weekly at the cafe.
As the team rummaged through the burnt rubble on that dreadful Sunday, Monte stopped and came up with the idea for the fundraiser.
“He’s a lover,” Segalle said. “He has his own supporters in the restaurant and we can’t wait to see him again.”
A devastating fire
New Braunfels firefighters arrived on the blaze just after 1 a.m. on October 30.
Investigators found the fire started in the kitchen.
Trisha White, River City’s restoration manager, was “heartbroken and devastated” when she saw the building in flames.
“It was all I could do to keep the staff calm and reassure them that we are going to fix this issue,” she said.
Many employees and regulars who hadn’t yet heard the news showed up for their shifts or a Sunday meal, only to find smoke and charred walls.
“My son grew up in this building and has worked there since he was 13,” White said. “He and many other young employees are truly mourning a loss.”
The restaurant team said they were grateful that no one was injured.
River City Kitty, a cat who called the cafe home, made it out safely and is living with White while they rebuild.
Community members stepped in to help the restaurant crew even before the fire was completely extinguished.
White immediately called Gypsie Judice, a fellow caterer who runs the Cajun on da Geaux food truck.
“I was crying, because I was planning a wedding for 250 people in four days, and we had another wedding this weekend,” White said. “Tuesday we were in his kitchen.”
Many people note that the River City team was always the first to bring meals to people who needed it or reach out to a customer they hadn’t seen in a while.
Now, the crew is the recipient of these acts of service.
People often stop them at the grocery store to ask how they can help.
A fundraiser was launched almost immediately to support the 26 employees.
Pat’s Place hired as many River City workers as possible and Mighty Oak BBQ hosted a lunch for the whole crew.
Segalle has faith in his team and a bigger plan.
The restaurant owner is eager to rebuild and says she is often reminded that “you can’t take the memories away”.
“God makes beauty out of ashes,” she said, “and we kind of have a lot of ashes right now.”