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Fire-ravaged Twede's Cafe to open soon

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NORTH BEND - After undergoing almost a year of repairs since an arsonist struck last July, local dining staple and internationally famous Twede's Cafe is expected to reopen in May.

Twede's, formerly the Mar-T Cafe, sits on a prominent corner of North Bend Way and Bendigo Boulevard. The cafe's owner, Kyle Twede, said he hopes to have the popular dining spot open by May 1.

"That's what we're shooting for, May 1. It may be after that, but should be sometime in May," he said.

"We're really thankful that the city's behind us and thankful that everybody remembers us," he added. "And we're going to get it open as soon as we can."

The building suffered at least $250,000 in smoke and fire damage when, in the wee hours of July 2, 2000, someone set fire to its back section, vandalized the restaurant's inside and stole $450.

Although the fire did not entirely destroy the building, the roof and rear one-third of the restaurant were damaged. The front of the cafe was filled with smoke, which required workers to later completely gut the restaurant. The case is still under investigation by the King County Fire Marshal's Office.

The fire and resulting reconstruction took away a dining spot where many locals ate most of their meals, and displaced the cafe's employees, some of whom had been there for years. The restaurant's insurance policy has paid the employees' salaries, and 18 of 20 employees are coming back.

In addition, the fire removed a tourist destination for legions of "Twin Peaks" followers. The cafe was featured in the early 1990s television series and movies.

"It's a major corner of downtown, and it's a major draw for people who still come here from all over the world for 'Twin Peaks,'" said Phil Messina, city administrator for North Bend, adding that the city is pleased with the reopening.

"It can't be too soon," he added. "I've been missing their Sunday breakfast."

The historic building, constructed in the early 1940s by Roy Thompson, has been completely gutted and redesigned. The kitchen has been moved to its original location, where it was when the restaurant was called Thompson's Cafe. Inside, the look is a mix between the cafe's original design and the "Twin Peaks" diner design, with the popular U-shaped dining counter. Twede will cover one wall with "Twin Peaks" memorabilia.

The exterior will soon resemble the earlier Thompson's Cafe, complete with a new marquee.

"We got a new front door, a big window. It looks really nice," said Doris Wade, one of the property's executors. Wade and her two sisters look after the building, which is owned by their mother, Olive Tjersland, 92. Tjersland was married to Roy Thompson.

Twede plans on opening quietly, then having a grand opening for local customers and everyone in the community who helped out after the fire. The Slovers, who own the North Bend Theatre, hosted a benefit show and auction with proceeds going to Twede's. And Georgio's Subs pitched in, too, donating a day's worth of sales.

To assist the restaurant in opening quickly, the city of North Bend waived permit fees and provided aid to redesign the building's facade.

Twede said one thing that won't change about the restaurant is its menu, with the exception of a few new sandwiches and dinner specials. And yes, Twede's famous 26 hamburgers will make a comeback, including the hickory burger.

"That's the burger that everyone is dying for that they haven't been able to get - the hickory burger," he said. "That's the kind of addictive burger that we had that everyone wants back," he said. "It's made with a hickory seasoning, and we put smoked cheddar on it.

"We still have 'Twin Peaks' pie, and the best damn-fine coffee in the Valley," Twede added, mimicking a line from a "Twin Peaks" character. "We will still make at least eight pies a day, five kinds - cherry, boysenberry, apple, chocolate cream and banana cream."

As Twede works to reopen the restaurant, the King County Fire Marshal's Office is asking those with any information about the arson to step forward.

"We know that someone out there in the public knows, and we would like them to assist us so they can assist the community," said Bill Harm, a fire-investigation supervisor for the Fire Marshal's Office. A reward for information that leads to the capture and conviction of the arsonist remains at $10,000.

"Anybody who would set that type of fire is a pretty serious threat to the community," Harm said. "The kind of people who do this type of crime, many times they've done it before, and many times it's not the last time they've done it. And until they're held accountable, they could likely do it again."

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