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'Prayers would be nice:' Family-owned restaurants burn down after 45 years

Junior's Seafood and Junior's Famous Sandwiches have been a family business for decades. The fire started before opening hours.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It took about 45 minutes for 45 years of business to go up in smoke Thursday morning on north Main Street.

“A lot of prayers would be nice," said Seham Kassees-Salazar. "A lot a lot of prayers. As much as my son’s helped the community and everybody, let’s hope and pray they will pull together for them as well.”

Kassees-Salazar’s son and brother both own the restaurants: Junior’s Seafood and Junior’s Famous Sandwiches. Famous they are.

“The owners… they don’t deserve this," said Logan Hrachovina, former employee and a regular. "Everybody in Jacksonville knows this place!”

Hrachovina and his family stared in disbelief. They walked to the restaurant to see the damage.

As the smoke dissipated and lunch time came loyal customers rolled into the parking lot.

"We come down here at least one a week to get the good ol' fried shrimp and eat a sandwich," customer Victor McFalls, said. 

"It's a staple in the Northside of Jacksonville and a great place to eat, it's terrible for the owners and employees," Will Payne, another loyal customer, said. 

Through the charred siding and debris customers saw memories of their time well spent at Junior's.

"My girlfriend has celiac disease the owner was so sweet he made sure to get her the pudding before the cookies were even put in it just because of the celiac disease," a customer, who wished to remain anonymous, said. 

Kassees-Salazar is focused on the future before she can even get inside to see the damage.

“Everybody who comes here loves it and brags about Junior's. It’s just emotional,' she said. But she was adamant they would rebuild. 

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Captain Eric Prosswimmer says 65 firefighters fought the second alarm fire Thursday morning. He said their goal was the save as much as they could. 

No one was in the building at the time of the fire and there were no injuries. The state fire marshal will investigate the cause. 

Prosswimmer says the fire appeared to have started in the attic around 7:20 a.m. Crews were on scene in two minutes. 

"There's pretty substantial damage to the entire structure," Prosswimmer said. 

He said they had not been inside the building at the time of the news briefing to see if any part of the restaurant was salvageable.