CAMPBELL’S CREEK, W.Va. – It was not a typical Sunday at the Dairy Winkle in Kanawha County. The restaurant was packed with customers and the phone rang repeatedly with people calling in take-out orders.
The Dairy Winkle was one of the first restaurants in the county to receive the green light from the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to re-open despite the continuance of a do-not-use water order from West Virginia American Water Company.
Restaurant owner Paco Ellison came up with a plan to re-open without the need to use any tap water for cooking, cleaning or washing hands. All his water came from non-contaminated sources.
“I hauled in water. I went to Lowe’s and got five-gallon jugs and 25 cases of water,” he said.
Though the situation is not ideal, Ellison said he needed to open his doors.
“I need money coming in every day because money goes out every day,” he said.
He and four employees were cooking up everything from hamburgers to chili to corn dogs and the customers were eating it up.
Jodi Grady, of Diamond, said it was getting pretty desperate at her house with three young boys and a husband. “The kids were starving!”
They had been sustaining on sandwiches and pizza. She was happy to munch down on a hamburger topped with fresh veggies.
“It is very good,” she said. “And it’s much easier than trying to wash dishes with a bottle of water.”
David Holmes, of Charleston, said the hot meal he ate at the Dairy Winkle was the first good food he’s had in three days.
“We’ve been toughing it out and just using the microwave,” he said.
Kayla Robinson of Elkview is a self-proclaimed clean freak. She said she’s been making it on pre-packaged food from 7-Eleven, but there’s still forks and spoons and plates that get dirty.
“If we come here, we don’t have to worry about dirty dishes,” she said, laughing.
Betty Hackney, of Clover, stopped in at the Dairy Winkle Sunday afternoon on her way to work. She said anything is a welcome change after several days of eating canned soup.
“I ordered a hamburger, onion rings and a corn dog!”
Ellison said he usually doesn’t have any trouble keeping up with orders. However, customers were coming in so fast, he soon realized he had a problem.
“I found myself running out of stuff and I never run out of anything,” he said.
He sent a friend to the store for the basics like hamburger buns and they kept cooking up the food.
He said the water crisis has been a real eye-opener as a business owner.
“We use water so much we take it for granted.”
The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department was approving alternate water plans for other restaurants on Sunday. An updated list is available here.