The Alamo Steakhouse in Gatlinburg was a staple for both locals and tourists for 18 years. The restaurant burned down on the night of the November wildfires that swept through parts of the city. Now, the rebuilding process is officially underway.
The Johnson Family owns the Alamo and several other restaurants in Sevier County. On Monday, they broke ground on the reconstruction with the help of employees and Gatlinburg city leaders.
"My dad and I never talked about 'Do you want to rebuild?' It was like, 'Okay, so now we rebuild.' I couldn't imagine the Alamo not being there," said Kelly Johnson, co-owner of the Alamo.
Johnson says the Alamo will look exactly as people remember it.
"I want to see the Alamo as it always was. It was tempting for a minute to update it and then I thought I don't want anything to be what it was," said Johnson.
Dozens of people worked at the Alamo when it burned down. The Johnson family used insurance money to support their employees during the winter, and now the Alamo employees work at other Johnson-owned restaurants.
"This company is one of the best. They truly care about their employees and they treat us like family," said Gayle Evans, a waitress at the Alamo.
Evans said working at the Alamo was like having a second family, and that she was devastated to hear it burned.
"It was sad to see it go and I'm real excited to see it come back," said Evans.
Johnson said their plan is to have the Alamo reopen Oct. 1.
"We really want it open for the fall. There's a lot of people who come to see the beautiful leaves and I feel like I owe it to them so they don't miss a fall at the Alamo. Keep our fingers crossed and nag our contractor and try to be open on Oct. 1," said Johnson.
Johnson says she hopes every employee who worked at the Alamo on Nov. 28, 2016 comes back to work for the restaurant this fall. She says they are all welcome.