Flames ignite at Johns Island restaurant

A fire at 4430 Betsy Kerrison Parkway on Johns Island early this morning damaged Crave International Foods and a vacation rental company located next door. Buy this photo

The lime green walls at Crave International Foods were blackened with soot Monday morning from a fire that caused the Johns Island restaurant to close.

The restaurant and catering company at 4430 Betsy Kerrison Parkway have been open for two years and sit just shy of the roundabout at Kiawah Island’s entrance.

A passerby saw smoke coming from the building and called St. Johns firefighters about 6:15 a.m., Capt. Chad Kelly said. Flames that licked at a closet door in the back of the restaurant were contained almost immediately after firefighters arrived, he said.

An electrical panel and water heater were stored in the closet, along with old cook books and T-shirts, said the restaurant’s catering manager, April Romanelli.

“I think the door being closed is what kept the fire from damaging the rest of the building. It could have been a lot worse,” Romanelli, 27, said. “It helps to know that there’s nothing we did or could have done to prevent it.”

The restaurant’s owner, Michael Petrillo, 43, was visibly shaken as he surveyed the damage Monday afternoon.

“I’m devastated,” Petrillo said. “I built this with my own two hands.”

Petrillo said he was thankful that no one was at the restaurant when the flames ignited and that no one was injured. But he expressed worry moving forward.

Firefighters contained much of the fire’s damage to the restaurant’s closet. Water and smoke damage spread throughout the restaurant, spilling over to neighboring businesses Beachwalker Rentals and Jean’s Custom Workroom.

“This is definitely going to impact my livelihood and that of everyone who’s employed here,” Petrillo said.

Petrillo said he is uncertain how long the restaurant will be closed for repairs.

The company will continue to perform catering duties at another facility in the meantime, Romanelli said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Kelly said.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.

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