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Ruthie's Recovers from Arson Fire

By: Lindsay Liepman
By: Lindsay Liepman

30 years of one family's sweat and tears is now a smoldering memory.

Ruthie's barbeque became more than just a fixture of Navasota, it was a Texas trademark.

But the business is a total loss after someone set fire to the building earlier this week.

Ruthie's BBQ is one of a kind.

Ruthie Henley opened up shop in 1977.

Her son Charles has been running the business for years, and has put the small-town barbeque on the map.

"I put it like this. They ask me if the BBQ is good. And I tell them let their stomachs be the judge -- I ain't never had nobody not pay me," said Charles.

In fact, Texas Monthly paid them the ultimate compliment as one of the top 50 BBQ pit stops in the state.

And the accolades have followed from patrons.

"You might as well say this is my life. This is how I made my life. Every time I thought of walking away my customers said we need you. So this is where I want to be," said Charles.

But the charred walls and melted relics are a stark reminder that everything has changed.

Early Monday morning a fire gutted the entire restaurant, and left the Henley family with nothing.

"It's basically a shell," said Barbara Henley Walker.

Walker grew up with the family business.

Now she's questioning what they'll do.

"It's been very hard. A hurtful thing. We're just thankful we have had the business. It's been a blessing," said Walker.

Police are still looking for a suspect.

They believe someone broke in to steal money from the coke machine, then set a fire in the kitchen.

Police Chief Joe Hester says it's devastating to have a local landmark turned into a crime scene.

"People would come from all over the place to go eat BBQ there. So having the fire there was disturbing to people," said Police Chief Joe Hester.

But Ruthie's had an atmosphere and spirit that kept people coming back for almost 30 years. It's a spirit no fire could destroy.

"All I have to say to my customers is just hang on, we'll be back and let your stomachs get a rest," said Charles.

If the optimism is contagious, Ruthie's will be back in business -- in no time.

"I'm gonna miss my home, but I'll be back," said Charles.


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