HOUSTON (KTRK) --Marc Smith spent Tuesday morning salvaging what he could from Aunt Bea's Restaurant.
"It was surreal when I woke up this morning," said Marc Smith.
As he dug through the blackened rubble, he was reminded of how he got there and his interview with the owner, Jarvis Johnson.
"He's like, with your experience, why are you asking for a job as a dishwasher? You've got management experience. I told him, I said, 'Well, Jarvis, I've been in prison and I worked for free so $7.25 an hour is a lot of money for me,'" said Smith.
Smith started as a dishwasher.
"A week later I became the general manager because he saw something in me that nobody else would take the chance of seeing and I'm always going to be grateful for that, you know, because I've been able to provide for my family," said Smith.
Family is just what this place is for so many.
Customers, like Lydia Belson, stopped by to give their support.
"Everything happens for a reason. We don't understand it so our prayers go out to Jarvis, his family, the co-workers and everybody. Thank God no one was here," said customer Lydia Belson.
The fire started right after the restaurant closed Monday night at 9 pm.
Smith saw it happen. He said he thinks it was in the office.
"I was the one that called 911 last night. I come to lock, close the back door, I just see a big light. I knew I turned all the lights off before I left and I see the fire and I just took off running," said Smith.
More than 80 firefighters responded on Monday night. As of late Tuesday, firefighters were still working to determine the cause.
Smith is just grateful for what the fire didn't take.
"We all family here. It's like family. You argue, you bicker, but you carry on like nothing ever happened and continue to love each other, that's what we do here," said Smith.
No one was hurt.
The owner says he plans to reopen.