Countryside Owner Speaks About Fire, Burglary and Future Plans

Despite weekend fire at Countryside, Bill Kao says he plans to push forward and “fast track” the opening of his new Emmaus restaurant, Creamery on Main.

With police and fire crews still investigating the  that resulted in major damage to the landmark ice cream hangout,  owner Bill Kao spoke with Emmaus Patch about the fire and his immediate plans.

Kao emphasized that he is NOT the owner of the building in which Countryside resided. He simply leased the space.

Jim Hilston has been the property owner for the past three years, Kao says, and will be working with police officials and insurance agents as the investigation continues. At this time, the location is considered a crime scene, Kao says.

According to Kao, two cash registers were displaced and $200 was missing. Interestingly, he added, the T.V., laptop and other valuables, which were stored inside the restaurant, remained as of Saturday morning when the fire was finally extinguished.

“We had about $2,000 worth of ice cream and $1,000 worth of food in there, because it was supposed to be a nice weekend,” Kao said.

He added that they had just stocked up because the summer season is about to begin. Plus, he had also ordered extra supplies to get a head start at the Emmaus location, the Creamery on Main.

Now he'll be ordering again.

Kao continued: “Going into the peak season, we’re going to lose a lot now. We pretty much do all of our business from April through October. Those months pretty much support the winter, because we don't do much business during the winter. The summer months really help carry the winter months.”

With winter expenses looming and no revenue being generated at the Countryside location, Kao said they’re going to have to “fast-track” the Emmaus property.

“Until we figure out what the claims are doing and how long it's going it to take, my bills are still coming in, and I still need to pay them. This is our only source of income,” Kao said. “The Creamery should help a little, but we're starting off in big hole.”

Countryside historically had been closed during winter months. However, Kao recently began the new tradition of keeping it open year-round.

“My wife said we reinvented Countryside. People know us, and that's why I'm so upset. It couldn't come at a worse time,” Kao said. “At first I was in shock. Now it’s the third day, and I’m just pissed off.”

One of the biggest blows was the loss of the soft serve ice cream machine. Kao had made a verbal agreement to purchase it from Hilston and had planned on moving it to the Emmaus location the Saturday of the fire. Kao said it would be a $23,000 expense to replace it, and getting the capital to do so will take some time.

“Now we'll open without the soft serve machine, but we'll have all the hard flavored ice cream. It will probably take some time until I can get the money. Those things are expensive!” he said.

Kao plans to have 18-25 flavors of hard ice cream when the Creamery opens. “We're still going to have flurries, milkshakes, sundaes, banana splits and ice cream floats,” he added.

Kao went on to say that his current staff will be working at the Creamery on Main with an opening date of June 1 if all goes as planned.

“It kind of occupies me and helps alleviate some of the expenses that are incurred while we're waiting for the next step,” he said.

The encouraging news was that the Creamery passed all of its required health inspections passed over the weekend, so the only step left is for the fire chief to come in and check everything, according to Kao.

“I'm going to have him triple check everything! My employees are ready and waiting to go to work,” Kao said.

Kao emphasized that he gains nothing from the fire at Countryside. “People think I own the building, and I don’t,” he clarified. 

Lyle Richardson May 24, 2011 at 01:40 PM
Bill , I speak for myself as well as a lot of othes we are looking forward to you opening the new store on the triangle. Whoever set the fire up there needs to be brought to justice. I thought maybee offering a reward would help. I will put in a few dollars toward that end I know others also offered to do the same. Keep us all posted and we will be at your opening.
Donna Hosfeld May 24, 2011 at 03:21 PM
Fires are devastating and investigations can take time. However, with the support of the community, I know Bill will bounce back and be fully functional again, providing that "glad you're here" kind of feeling whenever we walk into his establishment(s).
Ann DeLazaro May 25, 2011 at 12:50 PM
Bill, Since opening "Countryside", you have been so generous with your time and your resources to support kids, their sports and their schools. I'm asking our community to rally and support you, as you and your wife have done for so many of us. Please let us know how we can help you.....it's our turn. Ann DeLazaro
Heather B June 08, 2011 at 01:27 PM
Bill, I was absolutely devastated to hear about the fire that happened at your establishment. My grandfather used to take me there for ice cream all the time when I was a little girl. Now that I am about to have a child of my own I was very much looking forward to carrying on this tradition. I plan to visit your new ice cream shop in emmaus as often as I can to support you. I hope the future holds great things for you and your family and hope that Countryside can one day be restored. Heather B


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