Kathy and A.J. Umland, owners of Aunt Fannie’s restaurant in Belleview

The owners of an iconic Belleview restaurant that was severely damaged by flames earlier this week are hoping to operate a food truck until their eatery is completely rebuilt.

Kathy Umland took to Facebook on Wednesday to talk about the fire that destroyed Aunt Fannie’s restaurant, located at 6147 Abshier Blvd. in Belleview. Multiple crews from Marion County Fire Rescue responded to the blaze shorty after midnight Wednesday, where they found smoke coming from the roof and a fire that originated in the kitchen. There were no injuries and the cause of the blaze remains under investigation by the county Fire Marshal’s Office.

On Wednesday, Kathy Umland confirmed that the damage at her husband A.J.’s restaurant was extensive.

Crews from multiple Marion County Fire Rescue stations battled a blaze early Wednesday morning at Aunt Fannie’s Restaurant in Belleview.

“He opened this restaurant when he was 23 years old,” she wrote. “He is now 62 and has owned and operated Aunt Fannie’s for nearly 39 years. This was not just a building. It is a family.”

Kathy Umland also launched a Gofundme.com account to raise money for a food truck so that the restaurant’s customers can continue to enjoy their favorite dishes until it’s completely restored.

“He has given to others, now it’s time to give back to him!” she wrote of her husband, while also pledging to begin rebuilding immediately. “We must stand together during this time of tragedy. We will rise out of the ashes and become stronger!!!

The fire at Aunt Fannie’s Restaurant was reported at 12:05 a.m. Wednesday and called under control 51 minutes later.

In a Thursday Facebook post, Kathy Umland said she and her husband and the eatery’s 15 employees are “out of a job” until the facility is rebuilt, which is expected to take several months. She said they have been “brainstorming” to find a temporary solution and are hoping to rent or purchase a food truck at a discounted price or find a temporary location in Belleview with a full kitchen.

“My husband and I must continue to work, despite the emotional chaos that we are enduring,” she wrote.

Several area residents weighed in with messages of support.

“Good luck and prayers for all of you,” wrote Heather Sanford Alexander. “Y’all gave me my first job when I moved here from (South Carolina) twenty-four years ago.”

Firefighters from multiple Marion County stations battled a blaze at Aunt Fannie’s Restaurant in Belleview early Wednesday morning.
Belleview Engine Company #18 was the first to arrive at the fire at Aunt Fannie’s Restaurant early Wednesday morning.

Jim Higginbotham said he knows the restaurant will be back bigger and better. Tonia Kitts Galchick offered prayers for the owners and the employees. And Lisa Maureen called Kathy the “strongest” person she knows.

“If anyone can overcome hardship, it’s you!” she wrote.

As of late Thursday afternoon, 11 people had donated $640 to Umland’s Gofundme account for the new Aunt Fannie’s Food Truck. It carries an overall goal of $10,000.

Smoke was pouring from the roof and flames sweeping through the attic of Aunt Fannie’s Restaurant in Belleview when firefighters arrived early Wednesday morning.