Fire at Sprout's Inn in Quincy

An early morning fire Thursday gutted the popular Sprout's Inn restaurant on North 12th Street in Quincy.

The Quincy Fire Department investigators and an investigator representing the owner's insurance company determined that repetitive use of an electrical outlet over an extended period of time caused a loose terminal connection which resulted in overheating.

Overnight cleaning crews called 911 reporting a possible fire at Sprout's Inn about 12:40 a.m. The initial report said there was a lot of smoke coming from the building.

There was heavy smoke in the restaurant when firefighters arrived.

They entered the building and tried to locate the blaze within the walls of the restaurant. The clean-up crews were evacuated as more and more smoke came into the building. Firefighters tried to locate the origin of the fire by entering and pulling down sections of ceiling. It spread quickly through the ceiling areas and within an hour the fire spread through the roof.

Extra fire crews were called in, but there was a delayed response because of another call. Other crews and aerial trucks were diverted to the scene.

No one was hurt and everyone got out of the building safely.

Firefighters believe the fire may be electrical in nature, but no official determinations have been made. Due to the large extent of the damage, finding an exact cause could be very difficult.

The 72-year-old restaurant itself is a popular favorite in the Tri-States. Sprout's has been at the 12th Street location since 1948.

Although the popular family-owned restaurant has been gutted by flames, it's already set to make a return. Owner Jenny Wiemelt lives nearby and found out about the fire after her aunt ran to her door.

Wiemelt began working at Sprout's when she was 12 and took over the restaurant when her father Pat McClean died in January.

"Everything is gone, there is nothing else that can be saved inside," Wiemelt said.

Her first thought when she saw the blaze was of her 72 employees.

"That was my first concern but when I turned around and saw everyone behind me, and said we'll be fine," Wiemelt said. "We'll support you 100 percent, it made me at ease and think I can do this better than I did before. It's the employees that I have here that really makes Sprout's, Sprout's."

Some of the many workers include 43 year-employee Mike Vahle and Patti Kelly who has worked here 34 years. They left work about an hour before the fire started. They came back with nearly 50 others to show support for what they call their second family.

"We got off and then got a call that Sprouts was burning," Vehle said. "We came out and watched it burn down."

"It's devastating," Kelly said. "It breaks my heart to see it. There are so many memories in that building."

It's the same for longtime waitress Judy Obert. She was 18 when she began working at the Quincy fixture.

"I sure didn't know how to waitress but I was trained and you become welcomed into their family by the McClean family and they treat you like family," Obert said.