Across the country, closures caused by the coronavirus have already rendered it nearly impossible for restaurant industry workers to make a living. “We’ve been saying for a while, what else could happen?” says Evan Dimas, the co-owner of Dimas Brothers Cafe in Seneca, South Carolina. On Sunday evening and into Monday morning, another act of nature answered that rhetorical question as a storm spouting deadly tornadoes ripped across the Southeast, devastating communities from Mississippi to the East Coast and killing at least thirty-three.
On Monday around 3:30 a.m., one of those tornadoes touched down in Seneca, destroying homes and businesses, including Dimas Brothers. “The winds took nearby roofs, splintered them, and threw them at the restaurant like a dart board,” Dimas says. Doors blew off, electrical boxes were torn from walls, auxiliary buildings were strewn across the property, and debris piled up inside and out. “It’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the building back up and running,” Dimas says.
Like many restaurants, Dimas Brothers had just transitioned to a take-out and delivery model, but that has been put on pause as rebuilding begins. Fortunately, the owners had recently begun plans to launch a second restaurant, scheduled to celebrate its grand opening this month—that is, before the coronavirus hit. Just five blocks away, this building weathered the storm unscathed. “Now, we’re fast-tracking to get the kitchen running and move the operation over there,” Dimas says. “We’re fortunate in that aspect, although it’ll take a few weeks.”
In the meantime, the community rebuilds. “From where I’m standing right now, I’m watching a woman with a stack of pizzas handing them out to people working to clean up the mess. Everywhere I look people are helping each other.” Dimas says. “No one is hugging, but everyone’s working together.”