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Russellville community remembers historic diner destroyed in fire

On this week's Eat It Up, Skot Covert revisits Russellville's historic Old South diner after a fire destroyed it— the building may be gone, but the memories stay.

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — Every week we gather around a table for a new edition of Eat It Up to enjoy good food and share the stories of locally-owned eateries. We believe it’s here where communities gather and relationships are formed. 

Earlier this week one of the restaurants we featured recently, Old South in Russellville, suffered a major loss that has left the surrounding community in shock— a fire destroyed it overnight.

While the iconic 75-year-old building may be gone, the memories are not!

This week’s edition of Eat It Up is dedicated to looking back at what we will forever be known as the place where “two presidents and a king” dined— a reference to when Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, dined there.

Originally opened in 1947, Old South Restaurant stood as the oldest restaurant in Russellville, and one rich with history.

Until recently, you could still sit at the same booth that Elvis famously sat at.

But shortly after midnight on Monday morning, a fire broke out at Old South. Word spread quickly throughout the community as firefighters continued to battle the blaze for hours.  

We spoke with co-owner Zack Summitt who said that one of his recollections of that tragic morning was many of his 50+ staff showed up to show their support. 

He said they shared laughs, cried, and reminisced on the diner that has brought people together for 75 years.  

As for what’s next? Summitt isn’t sure and explained it’s simply too early to tell. His primary focus is helping his employees find employment.  

He is inviting employers to meet his staff on Friday, June 9th from 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. at 1311 2nd Street in Russellville.  

Local non-profit The Russ Bus is also accepting donations to support employees during the transition.  

Main Street Russellville has announced an employee benefit that will be held on Friday, July 7th at 6 p.m. at the Depot Park. The event will feature live music, food trucks, and a silent auction.


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