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Hinze's Bar-B-Q owner looks for new home for restaurant

Aug. 5, 2014 at 5:42 p.m.
Updated Aug. 5, 2014 at 10:46 p.m.

Firefighters battle a blaze Monday evening at Hinze's Bar-B-Q on U.S. Highway 59 in Wharton.

A family business

W.C. and Rosemary Hinze owned a little Dairy Freeze in Wharton and later opened Hinze's Bar-B-Q in 1973.

The restaurant started with only brisket, sausage, ribs and three sides - potato salad, pinto beans and slaw - on the menu.

Source: hinzesbarbque.com

Owners of a popular barbecue stop on U.S. Highway 59 in Wharton said Tuesday that they want to rebuild as soon as possible.

Lydia Kubicek, a manager at Hinze's Bar-B-Q and daughter of the original owners, said the community has been supportive since flames consumed the beloved Wharton business Monday night.

Her brother and owner of the Hinze's Bar-B-Q, Michael Hinze, 49, plans to reopen a temporary location, said Kubicek, 51, but she doesn't know how soon.

"He's worried about his employees right now and wants to give them a place to work. He wants to find a location in town, short term, to get something going," she said. The restaurant, which opened in 1973, employed about 45 people.

She said her brother has been busy since Monday and is trying to get over the shock.

"We have a lot of support here, and hopefully, we can find something to get it through for now," Kubicek said.

John Szymanski, Wharton County Precinct 2 constable, was 14 miles away in East Bernard when he got the call and could see smoke billowing into the air.

"Like most residents, I've eaten there numerous times. It's kind of like losing a member of your family in a way," he said Tuesday morning.

Hector Hernandez, Wharton Fire Department assistant fire chief, said the call came in about 6:45 p.m. Monday.

El Campo, East Bernard, Hungerford, Needville and Boling fire departments assisted the Wharton firefighters to extinguish the fire, he said.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, and the State Fire Marshal's Office has been called in to investigate.

"We did save the main dining area, but there was water and smoke damage to the rest of the building," Hernandez said.

As a precaution, a nearby gas station also was evacuated and its pumps turned off. By 9 p.m., the fire was contained. But at midnight, firefighters were still trying to put out hot spots, Szymanski said.

Although the smoke was a concern, the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 59 were not shut down because visibility never declined to a point in which it was considered a hazard.

"We had a lot of people who were stopping or slowing down and almost had several small accidents," Szymanski said. "You could hear a lot of vehicles honking their horns."

The banquet or party room as well as the pit area were destroyed while the front portion, which includes the counter, kitchen and drive-thru had water and smoke damage.

"I don't know if they can salvage that area or not," he said.

Kubicek was working Monday night when the fire occurred. A grease fire started in the pit area and slowly spread into the kitchen, she said.

Acting as quickly as possible, she called 911 and then called her brother. She said first responders arrived within minutes and started to work to save the restaurant.

"It was devastating. They did everything they could. It's in God's hands. They just couldn't get it," Kubicek said. Everyone was evacuated from the building, and no one was injured, she said.

She's been working at the restaurant since she was 16 years old, along with their other siblings.

"That was our life. It was a family business. We all worked there," she said.

Her parents, W.C. and Rosemary Hinze, opened the restaurant at the same location more than 40 years ago. After W.C. Hinze passed away about 16 years ago, Rosemary Hinze sold the business to Michael Hinze.

Kubicek said her mom hasn't seen the damage yet, and she probably won't take her to see it until she's ready.

"She just can't go look at it," a heartbroken Kubicek said. "Hopefully, everything will work. We will get through it."

One of the most unique aspects of the building were the two large oak trees inside. Their trunks extended through the ceiling. The trees are still standing, Szymanski said.

The trees were what Crystal Hogue-Garcia remembers from her childhood.

She grew up between Cuero and Victoria and said her great-grandfather always made it a point to dine at Hinze's Bar-B-Q on the way to Louisiana.

"I always remember the trees," said Hogue-Garcia, 35, of Rockport. "As a little girl, I could never get over how big they were."

She and her husband, Richard Garcia, both visited the restaurant a few months ago. Richard always stocks up on the barbecue sauce they sell and the seasonings, too.

"They always have the best barbecue," she said.

When she read news about the fire on Facebook before going to bed Monday night, she told her husband, Richard, about it.

"We were both so sad," Hogue-Garcia said. "I hope they can rebuild, and that the trees didn't get damaged."

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