Owner said there is a chance they could bring the restaurant back.
Steve Holland sat at a picnic table Wednesday morning, his 71st birthday, and drank a cup of McDonald's coffee as he watched a bulldozer move around piles of his restaurant, Holland's Shelter Creek.
The restaurant was torn down Tuesday after floodwaters from Hurricane Florence rose so high they not only drowned the building, but also picked it up off the foundation and moved it.
In 1981, Holland bought a 600-square-foot service station that sold bait and tackle on the side of N.C. 53 and over the past 37 years has expanded it multiple times to be 6,000 square feet of space. During hunting season, the restaurant's clientele is a sea of camouflage as hunters grab food before and after their time out in the woods. In the summer months, families fill the space overflowing from the next door campgrounds.
The menu has more or less stayed the same with seafood po'boys, sides of frog legs, pork chops, fried seafood plates and their signature dish -- a fried catfish sandwich.
"I hope one day we can sell them again," Holland said. Behind him was a sign that marks the water line from Hurricane Floyd -- the only other time the restaurant flooded. Florence floodwaters went seven feet higher, Holland said.
On Tuesday, Holland stood on the banks of the river that flooded the restaurant huddled with several long-time employees as a crane took Holland's Shelter Creek Restaurant down, piece-by-piece.
"When that first piece of the restaurant came down, I just watched them gasp," said Angela Crapper, an employee who said she cried watching Holland see his restaurant come down. "Down to the last piece -- the day was full of tears."
Melanie Parker grew up in the restaurant. Her mother was a waitress when Parker was just 9 and then when she turned 16, Parker herself got a job there and has been around ever since. Her mother died on Mother's Day this year.
"I grew up in this restaurant and all the memories with my momma -- doing schoolwork together and her helping me with anything I needed -- it all happened in there," she said, pointing to the restaurant.
This week has brought another kind of flood to the restaurant. Dozens of customers have stopped by the site to stare, hug the employees and take photos. Holland said many of them have stopped by just to cry. On Wednesday, people driving by slowed to a stop, leaned out of their car windows and took photos of the restaurant, now a pile of splinters. Many yelled out the same question.
"Are y'all gonna rebuild?"
Holland said he hopes they will, but he is still sorting out those details. He doesn't qualify for the low-interest loans from government agencies so now he is turning to the bank. He said the bank gave him a call Wednesday to "talk about the turkey" and get started on the rebuilding process. There is also a GoFundMe account that has raised several hundred dollars of a $500,000 goal on behalf of the restaurant that didn't have flood insurance.
As if the financial hurdles weren't big enough, Holland said he also has his health to consider. He said he is a diabetic, has had a triple bypass, two strokes and four years ago he stayed in a coma for 14 days and claims to have died eight different times.
Should the restaurant ever come back, fans of the place will be happy to know all of the taxidermy, including an old bear, and other memorabilia were pulled out before the floodwaters hit.
Reporter Ashley Morris can be reached at Ashley.Morris@StarNewsOnline.com.