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Fire severely damages landmark Williston restaurant in century-old building

A landmark restaurant that has operated for three decades out of a century-old home in Williston suffered serious damage in an electrical fire Tuesday.

The fire broke out in the pantry section of The Ivy House Restaurant at 4:22 p.m., when the eatery had been closed for two hours and no one was there, Williston Fire Rescue chief Lamar Stegall said. 

Williston is about 20 miles southwest of Gainesville.

Stegall said it was an electrical fire that started in the area of a dryer, resulting in heavy smoke and substantial damage to the back of the restaurant. A witness driving by Ivy House saw the smoke and called the fire department, which had 20 responders on site to extinguish the fire within minutes, Stegall said.

Photos of the damage obtained by WUFT show the pantry covered in soot and pieces of fiberglass insulation falling off of the walls.

Owner Waica Micheletti said the Ivy House staff felt lucky the fire was contained.

“It was actually a blessing,” she said. “The house is a 1912 and built out of lighter wood. If it had gotten [to] that part, there’s just not enough water in Williston to put it out. It would have been gone.”

Amanda Arnett Edwards said her family eats at the Ivy House in Williston twice a month — a trip that takes almost two hours each way from her home in St. Augustine. Ivy House is also the first place she took her infants when they were born.

“It's just a step back in time when you go there,” she said, “because it's not like a corporate restaurant where you go and you're just another number. I hated to hear that that family was going through this tragedy.”

Micheletti said she’s unsure how long it will take before Ivy House can operate, but that the staff is striving to be open by Thanksgiving. She said the 20 restaurant employees are eager to come back and help clean while on payroll.

“It's a legacy that my grandmother started,” she said. “We're just keeping it going, and we'll be up and running in no time.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct a previous version that incorrectly reported Waica Micheletti's last name. The previous version also incorrectly reported that the restaurant was built in Micheletti's great grandfather's home. The new version clarifies that the restaurant will be closed indefinitely but does intend to reopen.


This is a breaking news story. Check back for further developments. Contact WUFT News by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

Lauren is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.