Barron's Family Restaurant, a favorite Burbank hangout for studio crews and local residents for decades, was gutted by fire early Wednesday.
The blaze was caused by faulty wiring in an old ice cream freezer, fire officials said.
Described by many as like "eating in your grandmother's living room," the restaurant had been operating for more than half a century, including nearly 40 years at its current site at 4130 Burbank Blvd. It had just changed hands Friday.
"It was very homey," Burbank Fire Marshal David Starr said. He estimated the loss at $300,000 for the structure and its contents.
Edith Barron, 81, opened the restaurant in 1947 with her husband, Gordon, who died two years ago. Outside the gutted building Wednesday, Barron said the sight was very difficult.
"My husband and I built it, and we raised our kids in it," she said. "This was a family business; our employees became family and so did our customers. Right now, I'm remembering so many things--graduation parties and birthday parties. So many things."
Twelve hours after the fire started, customers and employees past and present continued to rally around Barron and her daughter, Connie Trimble, who began working in the restaurant at age 9 and ran it with her brother, Jerry, in recent years.
"This was a nice place to work," cashier-hostess Linda Sanders said. "We had a lot of regular customers you really get to know. Some of them even have their own coffee cups. You know who to give menus to and who doesn't need them."
Line cook John Seldon, 29, said he could tell which customers were in the restaurant by the orders that came to the kitchen.
"Dick always orders [eggs] up, bacon, whole wheat toast. Karen gets the crust cut off. Russ gets extra pickles," Seldon said.
From time to time, celebrities doing voice-overs in a sound studio across the street would pop in.
"I made scrambled eggs one day for Tom Selleck," said Trimble, who also recalled that the restaurant was featured in a "Visiting with Huell Howser" television segment about pancakes.
Scott Floman, the restaurant's new owner, said he wants to see Barron's back in business. "It may take six months or a year, but hopefully we'll rebuild it," Floman said. "It's kind of a landmark."
Floman, who also owns The Edge Cafe in Reseda and a studio catering business, said he bought Barron's for $80,000.
He had planned to keep the restaurant going while using its large, well-equipped kitchen for catering.
Floman said he plans to absorb as many of Barron's employees in his catering business as possible or help place them in other restaurants.