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Diner owners hope to rise from the ashes after fire in Rhinelander

Aftermath of fire at R&T's Dinky Diner
Austin Schindler
WAOW Television
Aftermath of fire at R&T's Dinky Diner

"My dream was to have a diner," explained Terrie Bowman as she looked at what remained of Dinky Diner.

Bowman, co-owner of the diner, recalled the moment she and fellow co-owner Rick Covin learned there was a fire.

"I heard his (Covin's) phone ring, and I hear him say, 'WHAT!?' And we're on our way."

The fire was first reported Tuesday night, Rhinelander firefighters saying they first got the call just before 6:00pm and arrived to find heavy smoke pouring out the back of the building.

They have since ruled the building a total loss, and several nearby neighbors have been displaced.

For Bowman and Covin, there were no words to describe what they saw.

"I could see the smoke and I..." said Bowman, trailing off.

"You could just see this huge, building, black smoke, over where the diner was, and I said to myself, well it ain't a small fire," Covin continued.

In the five years since it first opened, R&T's Dinky Diner quickly became a local favorite and a staple to Rhinelander.

"There were people standing outside, hugging, holding us," explained Bowman. "Holding us strong."

Residents from Rhinelander and beyond were shocked when they heard the news.

"Lot of people come here for breakfast," said Bruce Gary, a regular of the restaurant. "Not only that but the tourists have come to love this place. My friends in Chicago were devastated when they heard."

But Dinky's customers never forget what they brought to the city.

"Good food, good prices, and all the good people that came here," said Gary.

With lines often out the door on weekends and the outpouring of support, Bowman was certainly feeling the love.

"Our true hope is to build again...and open our house for the community again."

Both say they're thinking of starting a fundraiser to help employees who lost their job because of the fire, and say if they do open the doors back up, the first meal will be to first responders who helped - free of charge.

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