Buffalo Chip Saloon owner says they'll rebuild and re-open

FOX 10's Nicole Garcia reports.

- Arson investigators returned to the scene in Cave Creek a day after the Buffalo Chip Saloon burned to the ground. The owner was also there and he vowed to keep his entire staff and re-open the iconic restaurant.

Larry Wendt says the fire may have destroyed the building, but it didn't destroy the restaurant. They plan to re-open and rebuild as soon as they can.

"The Buffalo Chip has been here since 1951. It's going to be here past 2051, he said.

Through the devastation, Wendt vows the fire will not be the end of the Buffalo Chip Saloon. He plans to keep his whole staff -- 120 employees -- and open up once again.

"The building is historic and had a lot of neat stuff, but the building doesn't make the business. It's the great staff and family and we still have all that and we'll be back to take care of people like we've always done," he said.

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office investigators combed through the debris Friday, gathering evidence.

"We believe it's arson. We're doing everything we can to find out who's involved," said Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

"I don't think it's going to turn out that it was anybody local," said Wendt.  "I know they've got a couple very good leads, so I think there's going to be some fairly quick closure."

People from across the valley have been stopping by to show their support.  One customer even hung a pair of boots on the fence -- a tribute to the decorations that once hung in the restaurant.

"We're here.. you guys made us and we're going to pay it back," said Wendt.

He will be meeting with architects this weekend. The plan is to rebuild the restaurant in the same spot as it was before.

"If we can salvage enough out of this, it'll be so close.. you may not even know the original wasn't there," he said.

Wendt hopes to re-open part of the restaurant in a week or so. The main building was destroyed, but a building in the back where the food is stored and the area for live bull riding were salvaged.

The owners aren't asking for any donations for themselves or to rebuild the restaurant. Instead, they're asking people if they do choose to donate anything, to support their employees through this tough time.

Frontier Town hosts BBQ fundraiser for Buffalo Chip Saloon employees
Dec. 16, 4pm - 9pm
6245 E. Cave Creek Road
Cave Creek, AZ
For more information, call (480) 488-3317 or visit www.frontiertownaz.com


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