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At one point, Kenny Kallenbach couldn’t help but think that he may have to move his restaurant, CK Grill and Bar, following March’s devastating flooding that filled the floors of his establishment with nearly 3 feet of water.

“I have owned this place for 15 years,” Kenny said of the restaurant located at 633 S. 33rd Ave. “We would have moved if necessary. There’s no way I would allow it (to close).”

He and his niece, Chelsea, almost had to gut the building due to the immense damage. New walls, new floors and even a new backroom for large groups have been installed in the five months since the flooding. Now, CK is ready to reopen today in what one could arguably consider an entirely new restaurant.

“We tore out all of the interior walls and started over,” Kenny said.

It had all been going so well for the establishment formerly known as T & K’s Pitstop, which was renamed to reflect Chelsea joining the restaurant’s as a new owner on New Year’s Day. Chelsea took over management of the restaurant and oversaw an increase in traffic to the local watering hole.

“It was awesome,” Chelsea said. “Business was booming, things were going really well (and) it was an easy transition to being an owner.

“And then, everything hit.”

Thankfully, more than 90 percent of the products were saved from the restaurant before the floodwaters hit, as well as the seating arrangements. Unfortunately, other parts of the building were not and required significant repairs.

“It was overwhelming to see how much work it was going to take (to rebuild),” Chelsea said. “It was a disaster.”

It was bad enough that the Kallenbachs needed to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) if they could rebuild their restaurant. Luckily, it graciously allowed them to return, and with help from friends, family and the City of Columbus, they are finally ready to reopen.

“We’ve had a lot of friends and family support us greatly and get us going in the right direction,” Kenny said. “(We’ve had) a lot of support from our friends and neighbors behind us at the lake. They were over here the day after we could get in — there was 30 of them helping to clean it up already.”

They have also added new space in the back of the building for large groups, which came about after the owner of a fence shop next to the restaurant decided to move to a new location.

“We ended up buying that business out because the gal that owned the place wanted to sell it,” Kenny said. “I own a building in the back here, so we just moved it into that.”

The kitchen has tripled in size, allowing for an expanded menu. Although old favorites will still be available, they will also add new salads, steaks and shrimp to diversify customer options.

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“We’re keeping that stuff the same, we’re just adding (new stuff) during the week,” Kenny said.

The rebuilding of the restaurant has provided a rebirth for an establishment that has already seen significant progress under Chelsea’s leadership. Indeed, she referred to it as a “blessing in disguise” that they were able to rebuild after the tragedy.

“We’ve been able to remodel and update everything,” Chelsea said. “Everything’s brand new (except) the tables and chairs.”

Of course, the reopening of the restaurant means that the anticipation for so many will finally end. Since their phone service was hooked up last month, the place has been swamped with calls.

“The phone’s been ringing nonstop asking when we were reopening,” Chelsea said. “Anywhere we’ve gone in town, family, friends, anybody (and) everybody’s been asking, ‘When is T & K reopening?’”

Kenny said he is hoping that people come back and continue having good times and great memories at the restaurant. Most importantly, he doesn’t want the reputation of the place to go down after reopening.

“We want to continue the reputation for good food and good times when people come in the door,” Kenny said. “That’s what we’ve been doing and we just want to keep thriving and doing the same thing.”

Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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