Ringgold's Pizza Hut team members are ready to serve guests in the newly renovated store.
A ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 25 in conjunction with the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce officially reopened the restaurant after the April 27 tornado ripped through Alabama Highway, hitting the Pizza Hut building. Surprisingly the structure was still intact.
"The storm blew out all the glass windows," said Pizza Hut/Wing Street local marketing specialist Ashley Giannamore. "The gas station across the street's sign was in our dining room. Strangely a pizza came out of the oven untouched after the storm."
Although a complete remodel has taken place, the memories remain of that night.
"I got here at 7:45 p.m. and the tornado hit at 8:30 p.m.," said team leader server Allison Headrick. "All the pressure in my head made me know that it was coming. The guardrail from the freeway was behind our counter. There was no power, but we could see the chaos. It did not hit me until 30 minutes later. I was in shock. It was rough."
Giannamore said shift manager Leah Farmer helped move 23 people to safety and kept them calm inside the store's cooler the night of the tornado.
"We are happy to be back," said Giannamore. "We made the store more of a hometown feel. Community members were generous to donate their old high school jerseys. Shadow boxes in the store were built by a customer. Our Ringgold High School cheerleading and band photos made it through the storm."
Farmer said the Ringgold Pizza Hut has 25 employees, five of which witnessed the tornado.
"We are excited about the new store," said Farmer. "No other Pizza Hut in this region has our new menu. We have mozzarella cheese sticks, wings, nacho cheese curly fries, sandwiches, salads, traditional and breaded chicken wings with eight sauces and apple pies."
Pizza Hut in Ringgold, at 5454 Alabama Hwy, can be reached at 706-965-6400.