The summer of 2015 seem to have the theme of rebuilding for many Chestermere residents. But for Shan and Rukh Ali, it wasn’t a flood that threw them into rebuild mode.
July 31, 2015, in the early morning hours, a massive fire destroyed Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken and Taters that had only been opened since March of 2015. In a recent interview with Ali, he reflected on that horrific morning. “I remember that morning when someone phoned and said ‘you have a fire in your store’ and I came directly here. When I arrived, the first few minutes were obvious shock – a huge shock. And I remember one of the members of the fire department hugged me….in uniform.. and he began asking me questions but I could not answer him because I was so emotional”.
Ali explained that a cause of the fire could not be fully determined but that it was believe there had been some possible water leakage that got into the electrical panel and caused that early morning blaze that left the restaurant shut down for almost six months.
Throughout the rebuilding process, which Ali confirmed was covered by his insurance, he said the support from the community was remarkable. The restaurant reopened on January 8, 2016 but the grand re-opening was held on Saturday January 30th.
“We wanted to use this as an opportunity to give back to the community and say thank you. As this was our re-opening we could have just opened but we wanted to have a moment to give back and to also, to those that helped us during that devastating time, be able to honour them”, explained Ali.
The give back that he refers to is that at the grand re-opening, the team of Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken & Taters gave a $5000 donation to the Chestermere Regional Food Bank. “We chose the food bank because it is local and because we also live here now so we need to help local businesses and institutions. We spoke with a couple people their suggestions and everyone came back with the food bank. With now working and living in Chestermere, we take great pride in being a part of this city”.
The re-opening celebration had city dignitaries, MLA Leela Aheer, representatives from the Chestermere Regional Food Bank and members of the Chestermere Fire Service. An official ribbon cutting ceremony took place along with cake, balloons and fire trucks – this time to help celebrate as opposed to the last time these trucks visited the store.
With a fire of this magnitude that could have turned the Ali’s away from rebuilding and starting again, they explained that their experience with opening a business in Chestermere was wonderful and one of the deciding factors to rebuild here. “My personal experience is great. I’ve heard different viewpoints from different people but ourselves, dealing with permits and the city and the planning department was pretty smooth. We had no issue at all”.
Ali continued saying that the response from the public since reopening their doors has been wonderful and that was pretty obvious as there was a steady stream of guests coming in the doors to support this local business.
To keep saying thank you to the community that Ali says has embraced him and his family in both their business and also now that they are residents, huge specials were offered to guests during the grand re-opening celebration and continue for weeks to come. “We have grand opening specials in the store until March 30th and we’ve had flyers sent out so we hope the public will come in, say hi and take advantage of those amazing deals”.
Mary Browns Famous Chicken & Taters is located at 408, 100 Marina Drive.