The Iron Horse celebrated its 40th anniversary on Wednesday — five months after a grease fire gutted the kitchen, temporarily closing the doors of the beloved restaurant.
Lee Tremble, who opened the eatery in 1972, hosted Wednesday’s official grand reopening, which began with a ceremonial blessing of the refurbished restaurant by three local clergy.
Tremble greeted the more than 30 people who showed up for the fete with handshakes and his cherubic smile. He also took time to personally thank all of the workers who helped restore his restaurant.
Pastor Thomas Korkuch of Westwood United Methodist Church initiated the proceedings with a blessing at the Iron Horse’s main entrance.
“This is a day of celebration,” Korkuch said to a sea of bowed heads. “We are here this morning to seek God’s blessing on the Iron Horse and to give thanks we are here today to celebrate this new start.”
The blessing moved into the Horse’s new kitchen, where workers continued prepping for lunch without batting an eye. Pastor Thomas Pranschke of Zion Lutheran Church offered a prayer, “blessing all who eat here,” before joking to Tremble he was short on blessing for new bathrooms.
The bar was blessed by Pastor Rodney Haveman of the Parkside Community Church: “Protect those who celebrate and serve here, and protect those who come into this place.”
From the restored bar, Tremble said the blessing was an idea first hatched the week after the Oct. 16 blaze.
Tremble said the clergy asked if they could help, and he encouraged them “to do what you do best: Pray.”
The restaurateur said the mild weather this winter helped keep the rebuild on course.
“I leave it to each person here to determine if [the power of prayer] is real or surreal,” Tremble said. “For me, it’s real.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony followed.
Tremble’s son and the Iron Horse’s kitchen manager, Sean, said Wednesday the restaurant has experienced “the busiest two weeks” in its history since reopening March 4 — serving more than 3,000 customers alone the first full weekend it was back open.
“We almost ran out of burgers,” Sean Tremble said. “We were expecting it to be busy, but we weren’t expecting there would be lines out the doors for hours.”