(COLORADO SPRINGS) — On Monday morning, Sept. 11, many restaurants and stores in downtown Colorado Springs found themselves without power. This came after a transformer experienced an equipment failure in the early morning hours, resulting in an underground fire.
Tuesday marked day two of several businesses having to have their doors closed to customers. King’s Chef Diner was able to operate at their 1957 location, known to many as the “purple castle.”
“So, first thing in the morning, we cooled down everything and maintained it until we had some idea of what was happening,” said the owner of King’s Chef Diner, Gary Geiser. “Then we’re fortunate enough to have our own refrigerated truck, so we were able to get that from the farm that we had down in the Pueblo area… They came up, we were able to get our hard goods and everything out of that area and into our refrigerated truck.”
Having the second location ensured business was able to continue for King’s Chef Diner, just in a smaller space.
“In the meantime, we able to get our castle location, our historical castle, located at 110 East Castillo, operating and open during this time,” Geiser said. “So, we got Sue, one of our original cast members. We have Brandon cooking, so we’re able to keep some employees working, and we’re able to keep that facility going and still serve some food to the community during this operational error.”
Springs Utilities shared an update with FOX21, which can also be found online. Their crews were able to bring power back to 150 of 280 metered properties, and said crews continue to work in this area.
There are many restaurants impacted by this outage in that highlighted area. Geiser shared what he saw being done by other businesses.
“Well, hopefully there’s insurance that they can rely on to mitigate that. We prefer not to rely on insurance, if possible,” Geiser said. “But I did see other food trailers out there that refrigerated units that people rented right away. I do believe I saw other people pulling products out of coolers early in the morning. I think everybody was very proactive about food safety and making sure they were doing the right thing in the neighborhood.”
In the midst of this power outage, the sizzling of burgers and the upbeat tunes from the 80s could be heard outside of the purple castle.
“We’ve got a backup location,” Geiser said. “We’re honored to have that and honored that our customers still find us no matter where we’re at, so we’re super lucky [and] able to have it.”
Inside the diner was a longtime beloved staff member, Sue Browning, who could share a detailed recollection of the history of the 1956 location.
“I started out here before we had the second location, helped open the Bijou location back in the day, and then took a hiatus, did other things, and then it was always my favorite job, so I’m back,” said Browning.
Sue has an eye for customers, knowing her regulars go-to orders and ensuring they were happy both in the heart and in the belly.
“There are people that I took care of when they were little kids that are now coming in with their children,” Browning said. “We’ve got a lot of repeat customers, people have been coming in for years. We’ve got people that come in for 20, 30 years, so… it’s a lot like a family and we really enjoy ourselves.”
For one customer, Tim Mclean, the diner has been a go-to spot for around 15 years. He shared his excitement about being back in the original location on Tuesday morning.
“Obviously, the staff is the biggest thing, just super friendly and yeah, it’s just a good place to come and get lunch,” said Mclean.
Despite some challenges from the power outage, this signature spot is a gem in the Southern Colorado community.
“We’ve got a lot of great history with not only customers, but great staff,” Geiser said. “We’ve had staff members meet each other in the facility and then get married and start families. It’s just so many stories, so much history, so much camaraderie, you know? And as this town is growing quite a bit, those kinds of things get lost pretty easily and so we’re honored to be able to keep that.”
If the Bijou location is still without power tomorrow, the purple castle will be open to serve their signature dishes and welcoming smiles.