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Fire puts cafe, employees out of business

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SHEILA HATFIELD
Ellis County Press
FERRIS - When the fire on Tuesday, July 24 ravaged their dreams for the famous Bea's Café in Ferris, Gail and Bulmaro (Bull) Villa thought it the worst thing possible, but have since been faced with numerous dilemmas which prove the consequences can be worse than the initial problem.

Number one on the list is their lack of insurance.

In addition, the Texas Department of Health has stepped in and demanded asbestos tests to be done before anyone, including the Villa's, will be allowed to enter the café to clean, repair, or remove charred remains.

Building owner Lois Wills of Ferris is initially responsible for the tests, according to TDH, but Wills calls the tests ridiculous and insists the building is too old to have asbestos.

'It's not any of their business (the TDH), cause I know there's not any asbestos in there,' said Wills.

Other health and fire regulations have come into play, according to Ferris Fire Marshal Tim Birdwell.

'You can't just paint the walls,' said Birdwell.

He said a fire alarm system will be required, the wiring will have to be checked and possibly redone and other fire and health department guidelines will have to be used in the restoration.

Employees, too, are facing hard times in the aftermath of the fire. Waitresses and cooks have said they want to help, but until something can physically be done to restore the café, they still have to pay rent and make a living for their children.

Most of them are seeking temporary jobs, but both they and prospective employers understand 'temporary' could mean only one month or up to a year.

The worst scenario for the Villas, is the fact they and so many others are ready and willing to help clean and rebuild the café, but are not allowed to do much more than make phone calls for donations and advice on how to put out the continuing fires of frustration.

Meanwhile, dedicated customers and devoted loved ones of the historical café and the Villa's refuse to be put 'on hold.'

They continue to make their phone calls for help and plan to hold a cookout-auction-dance fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 4 to raise money for the Villas and the cafe.

'Bea's is the back-bone of downtown Ferris,' said long-time Ferris resident Gary Witherspoon. 'Our other businesses are great, but we have to have a Bea's.'

Anyone who would like to help with the cleanup, restoration, donations of cooked goods for the cookout, items for the auction or cash donations, may call Melanie Queen at Cash and Mail Emporium, 972-842-8448, or Rodney and Carla Barker, 972-842-2359 or 214-675-7145.

A special donation account has been set up at Commercial State Bank in Ferris, payable to 'Special Account' no. 00-2911-6.

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