Reeves Bakery, which was gutted by fire last year after a century as one of Washington's most venerable eating establishments, has reopened in its F Street NW location with a fresh new look.
In place of the 100-foot dark cherry wood counter, Tiffany lamps and antique wood booths destroyed by the fire, the restaurant and bakery that opened in 1886 now has a new blond oak counter, track lighting and booths padded with maroon vinyl cushions. The celebrated ceiling fans were not replaced.
But while the bakery's look is new, many of the first customers who lined up for the reopening March 26 were familiar faces to George Abraham, co-owner of Reeves with his brother Henry for 22 years.
"Glad to see you back."
"Good to see you on your feet again," patrons commented as they paid their checks.
"We missed you."
"We love the new look."
"Were glad to be back," Abraham replied. "And just like I promised, we're better than ever."
Reeves, at 1209 F St. NW, had long been one of Washington's most colorful and palate-pleasing landmarks before the fire, which officials blamed on faulty wiring. The blaze charred everything except the lunch counter's wooden stools, the only part of the original interior that was saved.
"We had to change the look, because you can't bring back something that has died," Abraham said. "But we still have the same good old food and the same good old service, and that's what's important."
His point was underscored by Audrey Jackson, who stood on the sidewalk outside the large glass window, her eyes glistening as she stared at nine freshly baked strawberry pies.
"They sure look good," said the 78-year-old retired teacher. "I remember eating pies from here when I was a little girl. They look just as good now as they did then."
Joe Pavelka, a retired banker who said he has been coming to Reeves since 1955, was there to celebrate his birthday when the bakery reopened.
"I came here looking for my favorite waitress," said the Arlington resident. "I never saw her, but the clam chowder and the strawberry pie were so good that it didn't even matter."
Abraham said he did not advertise the reopening because he wanted his "girls" to get back into the "swing of things" gradually. But as the word got around town, the lines of customers grew all week.
Waitress Lucille McKenna, 63, said, "I don't think I could have stood another day cleaning out closets . . . . I'm tired, but it's the kind of tired you like."
"I don't mind standing in any old line," said Mary O'Neill, who came to Reeves with her friend Birdie Pitts, 82, during the reopened bakery's first week. "I bet those people leaving haven't been coming here as long as I have, and I bet they never tasted the apricot pie either."