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Yarmouth fundraiser planned to help staff displaced from jobs after Chuck's Diner fire


YARMOUTH, N.S. – The smell of smoke still lingers a month after the fire. Inside are the charred remains of a business that once was.  

The former headboards that were repurposed from a Halifax-area hotel to make the backrests of the booth seats are burnt black.

The appliances that cooked meals and refrigerated food sit scorched in the rubble.

Destroyed are family heirlooms and other cherished mementos that were incorporated into the design of the diner – all irreplaceable.

As Chuck’s Diner owner Chuck Collishaw stands in the blackened diner pointing out everything that was destroyed in an Aug. 29 fire, he says it’s very emotional.

He does plan to rebuild.

Also weighing heavy for Collishaw is the impact the fire had on the diner’s staff. A fundraiser has been organized for Saturday, Oct. 7, to help the 12 staff that were left jobless after Chuck’s Diner on the Hardscratch Road in Yarmouth was gutted by fire in what is suspected as arson.

“We are hoping for a big turnout,” says Collishaw, who is organizing and hosting the event on site – near where his diner stood and where now a food truck serves customers again.

“The event itself is mostly for the staff, they are the ones hurting the most,” he says. “I have my partner and a good home, they need to pay rent and bills and unfortunately they all lost their jobs.”

Not all of them qualified for EI.

“All in all, they need your help. We aren't in a place to help them,” he says. Collishaw says the week the fire occurred had been expected to be a bonanza week for the diner as some other eateries had closed for the season and they expected to pick up that business.

Some of the displaced employees have found employment elsewhere but were without income in the weeks after the fire. The hope is they’ll come back to work here when a new diner is built.

Starting at 10 a.m. on Oct. 7, the fundraising day will include children’s games, face painting, a petting zoo, barbecue, bake sale and silent auction/raffle draw.

“The bake sale being the day before most people eat their Thanksgiving dinner will be a great place to get some sweets, a pie, breads and more,” says Collishaw, who is also opening up his movie drive-in that night at 7 p.m. for a showing of Hocus Pocus, and again on Friday Oct. 13, to screen – what else – Friday the 13th. Both movie nights are part of the fundraiser, said Collishaw. Admission is by donation.

You can see more info about the fundraiser on the Chuck’s Diner Facebook page.

As mentioned, Collishaw does plan on rebuilding but expects it’s going to take some time to get an insurance settlement.

The food truck in the dining parking lot sits alongside the boarded up and charred remains of what was the diner, which will eventually be demolished to make way for a new building.

“The wagon is doing 25 per cent of what we need to see, but we are keeping ourselves busy,” Collishaw says. “It’s very hard being this close to the diner every day. People keep asking me how I'm doing, and the truth is I’m not doing good at all. I lost my job, I lost the largest personal project that I have made to date, I lost friends, and I lost all of this in one day. The people that worked with and for me are all like family. I saw them every day, and now I'm lucky if I see them at all.”

The RCMP continue to investigate the fire. No charges have been laid. When contacted on Sept. 27, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said, “The file is still being investigated, but there are some aspects of it that will take some time.”

Collishaw is offering a $1,000 reward for anyone who has information that leads to a conviction.

“I have to go back into the building and remove all of the wiring and equipment, and look at everything I made (that is) burnt to a crisp,” he says.

“I want answers,” he says, while admitting he will probably never have the answers he wants.

(With files from Tina Comeau)

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