Ray's Drive-In West to rise from the ashes after fire cripples the restaurant

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A Tuesday evening fire forced Ray's Drive-In West to close its doors for now but not for good.

While those who work at the popular hamburger joint, sift through the soot and salvage supplies, the owner of Ray's says this is not the first time they have had to rebuild.

Owner of Ray's, Lawana Ray, could only watch as flames crippled her restaurant but she is not broken.

"Things can be rebuilt," said Ray. "Structures can be fixed."

Just after 6:00 PM Wednesday, Ray got the news that the family business was on fire.

"I must have got here in record time and when I got here there were flames just almost as high as this tree out the back," said Ray. "The smoke of course was just black filling the sky. It looked like any minute the whole structure was going to go. The firefighters were just amazing."

Ray's Drive-In has been serving up hamburgers in Lufkin for more than 50 years and in 1995 Lawana and her husband Jerry bought the burger joints from the family and expanded.

"We bought this one in 1996 and this was my baby," said Ray. "I worked it 16 hours a day for the first 3 years. It's kind of special to me and it's a little, it's like having your baby hurt."

And this isn't the only time Ray's West has suffered a trauma.

"I had a car drive through my, through the dining room so this is not my first rodeo as far as having a little bit of structural issue at Ray's West but we got through that one and we're going to get through this one."

Ray also suffered a personal tragedy in January of last year, when her husband of 40 years committed suicide.

"I think I learned from his death, that you just have to take every day one hour at the time and I think that's why I'm so calm. I have to be. I have to be not only for myself but for my employees. They don't need to see me in panic mode," said Ray. 

The Ray's Drive-In West kitchen may be closed for now and their seats may be empty but the Ray's on Timberland is still serving up everybody's favorite food and they're going to get the west location up and running as soon as possible.

Ray is already working with her contractor to clean up the mess and get the doors back open.

The fire marshal's office is still working to determine the exact cause of the fire but it is believed the fire originated at the back of the building. No staff, customers or firefighters were injured in the fire.

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