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Socastee restaurant owner looking for caller who she says saved business

Firefighters told Georgia Carandola a kitchen fire in her Socastee restuarant started in her oven. She said they told her if somebody didn't call when they did, her building may have been gone. (Taggart Houck/WPDE)

Georgia Carandola likes to stay busy in the kitchen of her 32-year-old, family-owned Athen’s Restaurant, but not this kind of busy.

Last Saturday around 4 a.m., firefighters told her flames were coming from the oven.

“They called me and I ran up here in my pajamas and started sobbing and crying, and I just have to say, ‘Thank God’,” she said, tears forming in her eyes.

That’s because it could have been much worse. She has a gas line in the kitchen for her oven and frying equipment. She said the crew told her if they’d come 10 minutes later, the business would have been gone.

It’s the first time in a long time, she’s been forced to close her doors.

Carandola stayed open for first responders during Hurricane Florence. For many years, she’s donated to local groups, even given away gift cards for kids at Socastee High School.

“Everyone needs to do what they can, that’s all,” she said of her help to others.

She has a strong following of devoted customers, like Ed Carpenter, who said he’s there about once each week.

“When she’s taking a carry-out order, or even when folks are coming in to pick up their orders, it’s the same with everybody and you don’t see that very often,” he said.

Other customers like Roy Higgins and Susan say they come about once each week, too.

“My wife had to be out of town during Thanksgiving one year and Georgia found out about it and actually invited me into her home for Thanksgiving,” he said.

Thursday, she stared at the soot which lines her ceilings, but there’s a good chance she wouldn’t have walls without that call. Which is why she wants to know “Who”?

“More people need to do that, they see something wrong, call it in,” she said. “Call it if you don’t know what’s going on.”

When she finds out, she said, there’s going to be celebration.

“I just wanna give ‘em the biggest hug in the world and just keep hugging them,” she said, smiling.

“They’re getting a lot of free dinners. Lots of free stuff from me,” she said, with a smile.

ABC15 News has requested those 911 tapes. We’ll let you know when we get them.

Carandola hopes to reopen the restaurant by Jan 1.

There is also a GoFundMe Page to help support her, started by a close friend.

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