BEAUFORT — A fundraiser to help employees of The Spouter Inn Restaurant & Bakery, which was destroyed by a fire Dec. 22, raised nearly $18,000, and there are ongoing efforts to help raise money for residents of the building.
The fundraiser to benefit Spouter Inn employees was created by server Mikail Hucks and his friend Julia Royall, youth director at Ann Street United Methodist Church. Ms. Royall described the loss of the popular Beaufort waterfront restaurant as tragic, especially just before Christmas.
“I was a waitress before, and I know what it’s like to count on that holiday money,” she said. “(Mikail) was telling me about some of the personal situations he knew of. Someone had just bought a car, someone bought all their kids Christmas presents on a credit card, and we knew this loss would be a big hit to them.”
The Dec. 22 fire not only destroyed The Spouter Inn, but six apartments and two other businesses that were housed in the same building at 218 Front St. in downtown Beaufort. Ms. Royall said while the fire was devastating for the residents, they were getting help from groups such as The Salvation Army, but she didn’t know of anyone helping the employees, who lost their income.
“I’ve lived shift-to-shift, I did that, so I know what that’s like, so I thought that might be a place to help,” she said. “It was really from (Mikail’s) desire to help his coworkers and I just came up with the idea to do a fundraiser. I knew it would be easy to set up and if people want to donate, great, and if not, that’s also fine. So it started from there.”
Ms. Royall set up a Facebook fundraiser and a GoFundMe with an initial goal of raising $1,000. She closed the fundraisers to donations Dec. 31 after raising nearly $18,000 between the two accounts, and she and Mr. Hucks dispersed an initial $500 to Spouter Inn employees this week. She said she closed the fundraiser because she wanted to get just enough money to help employees bridge the gap between having to pay bills and finding new jobs.
“My thought process is to help people move forward well,” she said.
Mr. Hucks said there is a plan to make and sell T-shirts to continue raising money for affected employees and residents. There is also a GoFundMe fundraiser set up for residents displaced by the fire. Ms. Royall said she is not involved in that fundraiser, but she has spoken to its organizer and encourages people still wanting to help out to donate, whether it be money or clothing and household items. Donated items can be dropped off at the Royal James Café.
Mr. Hucks has worked at The Spouter Inn on and off for about five years, since he was a freshman in high school, and said his coworkers are like family. He said some of the employees have been working there nearly as long as the restaurant has been around, more than 40 years.
“The Spouter isn’t just a normal business, it’s a family,” he said. “Those are not just my coworkers, they’re my family members. … It is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. My coworkers come from very different backgrounds, but they all work hard and we hang out as friends.”
Ms. Royall and Mr. Hucks said the community response to the fundraiser was “incredible,” and they give all the credit for its success to those who donated and shared the link. While many of the donations came from locals, a sizeable amount also came from out-of-towners who have vacationed in Beaufort and enjoyed eating at The Spouter Inn. Ms. Royall said many people shared their fond memories of the restaurant.
“People remember coming to the Spouter throughout the years, I heard from a former employee who said the Spouter gave her her first paycheck and she had such good memories,” she said. “It’s had a touch on many generations, and people have expressed that to us. I had no idea how people felt.”
The Spouter Inn has been open since 1977 and is owned by Robin and Matt Held. The couple has not publicly announced plans for rebuilding the restaurant.
Firefighting crews spent most of the day Dec. 22 fighting the blaze, and crews remained on scene for several days after monitoring hot spots.
County Fire Marhsal Eddie Lewis said in a news release the building is a total loss, the origin of the fire has been identified and there is no foul play suspected. He said once the building is torn down, fire marshals will learn more information about the fire’s cause.
Contact Elise Clouser at firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.