As soon as Sydney Baillieul heard about the fire at Mitchells Sports Bar and Grill last week, she went to see the destruction for herself.
Baillieul, 21, had worked at the bar as a server for almost two years and had become part of a close-knit family of co-workers who hung out before and after their shifts.
So when she saw that flames had gutted the bar, her first worry was not losing her job and paycheck, but losing ties with her fellow employees. The building all kept us together really, she said. I didnt want us to split up.
Thats where OReillys comes in.
The Irish pub and restaurant just opened in The Harrison building next to Parkview Field. And with baseball season approaching, the new bar needed workers. So OReillys sought out Mitchells employees and offered many of them jobs, including Baillieul.
OReillys managing partner Richard Cieslinski, a veteran of the restaurant business, said that after learning the news about Mitchells, he felt the bars pain.
I hate to see a restaurant go down like that. Theres nothing worse than a fire, he said. Its a nightmare.
Early Tuesday, flames destroyed Mitchells, along with a liquor store and hair salon, in the Marketplace of Canterbury, a shopping center near St. Joe Center and St. Joe roads.
No one was hurt in the blaze, which possibly started in Mitchells kitchen and nearly spread to Pieres Entertainment Center, the fire department said. The cause is still under investigation.
Knowing that the bars staff would be out of work, Cieslinski called Leigh Suthers, a manager and bartender at Mitchells, and quickly hired her.
Suthers, 23, said Cieslinski told her, If anyone else wants to come, tell them to come in. Wed love to give them a job as well.
She spread the word that Cieslinski was looking for workers, and so far, eight Mitchells employees have taken jobs at OReillys.
Cieslinski said he had been to Mitchells many times and knew the level of service the staff provided. Opening up you need the best service, and thats what were trying to get by bringing them on board, he said.
Suthers described Cieslinskis gesture as a blessing.
What place is just like, Oh, we just opened up, and we actually want to hire all of you, said Delena Halferty, another Mitchells server who took a position at OReillys.
Baillieul, Suthers and Halferty all said theyll go back to Mitchells if and when it re-opens.
It really wasnt just a serving job. It was so much more than that, said Halferty, 21. We went out of our way to make that place better.
Cieslinski expects that some of the workers hes hired will eventually return to Mitchells, and hes fine with that.
In the interim, they need work, he said. I kind of reached out to them because it was a win-win for both of us.