Three weeks after the tornado that ravaged Dawson Springs, businesses sustaining storm damage are starting to reopen. Leading that charge is Becky James, owner of Ms. Becky’s Place restaurant on Arcadia Ave.
The Dawson Springs staple welcomed its customers back on Monday, even keeping regular business hours from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The parking lot was full during the breakfast, lunch, and dinner rushes on Monday and Tuesday.
“Everybody was glad to be home,” said James just after breakfast on Monday. “Their wives were ready to send them down here, too.”
The Dec. 10 tornado damaged the restaurant’s roof and caused its entryway to become detached. “I’ve got to have a new roof and it blew my airlock off the front,” she said.
The James residence and the family-operated Saddle Club on Lucas Circle weren’t as fortunate. “I lost the house, the farms, animals--we assume the horse is dead because we can’t find it,” James explained. “My granddaughter, Kylee (James), is on the rodeo team at Murray, and her horse was killed.”
“All the barns--it just blew them away,” she continued, taking stock of the family’s losses that night. “I have a 40-foot motorhome that is upside down back in the woods in a culvert--just everything.”
“One of the barns up closer to the house and a little two-room building were flattened down to the ground, but the rest of it, the tornado picked it all up and they’re gone,” said James.
James and her daughter, Kelly James Grimes, had displacement insurance. “We both bought campers and they’re out there side-by-side,” she said. “We’re staying in our campers out on our property.”
After heeding the warnings the night of the storm, James, Kelly, son-in-law Stephen, granddaughters Gracie and Kylee, son Lee, daughter-in-law Laura, a neighbor, and Kylee’s college roommate sought safety in the home’s basement. “They didn’t even have a chance to sit down,” James said. “When the wind started blowing, you could hear the windows start to rattle.”
“Lee said, ‘Mama, we need to get in dad’s room away from this glass,’ ” James recalled. Her late husband, Eldon, had a home office in the basement. “I mean, when we stepped through that door, it sounded like three or four trains coming through that hall.”
Surviving the tornado is an experience Ms. Becky will never forget. “It lifted the roof, rafters and shingles — everything,” she said. “But nobody had a scratch on them — the good Lord blessed us.”
The James family has owned and operated the restaurant since April 2009, although the cafe has been a facet of Dawson Springs for many years. The tornado also claimed the old ‘The Place’ sign from its post out on the highway.
Ms. Becky’s loyal customers didn’t need the sign to guide them back to the popular establishment, which is also a part of many of the locals’ daily routines. She was relieved to see all of the smiling faces bright-and-early Monday morning.
“Beans, taters, cornbread — we’re here,” she said.