A grim scene greeted Toast Cafe owner Kent Baumhover on Thursday. Standing on the sidewalk outside the Vine Street restaurant, Baumhover wiped away tears as he surveyed the damage from an early morning fire.
Glass shards, soot and debris littered the charred tables and floor as late-morning sunlight drifted through the blown-out windows. In the back, a giant coffee roaster loomed, blackened and ominous, under strips of insulation hanging from the ceiling.
"It doesn't even feel like you're looking at the same space," Baumhover said.
The restaurant caught fire about 6:30 a.m. Thursday. Chattanooga firefighters rushed to the scene to control the blaze, which officials say was shooting out a side door as smoke poured through the windows.
Baumhover described a feeling of disbelief when he heard the news.
"When I got down here, there were seven firetrucks and the whole thing was blocked off," he said. Firefighters had gotten the flames under control, but smoke continued to billow from the building.
"It's like seeing your kid," Baumhover said. "There's nothing you can do."
Next door, Chad's CDs, Records & Tapes was in better shape.
"Most everything got protected," owner Chad Bledsoe said. Firefighters managed to cover much of his shop's stock with tarps before they began working on his side of the building, separated from Toast Cafe by an interior wall.
While the flames weren't as bad on the Chad's side, there was quite a bit of heat and smoke.
"It looks like I'm out of business for a while," Bledsoe said. "I'm winging it at this point."
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Lt. Andrew Waters of the Chattanooga Fire Department.
Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.