SPRINGFIELD -- Three months seemed like forever for Charlie and Marla Brown.

The husband and wife reopened Charlie's Restaurant Oct. 10, three months and two weeks days after an electrical fire June 28 put the venerable eatery out of commission.

The structure remained intact after the blaze, but flames caused extensive damage to the interior.

"We missed it every moment we were gone ... we couldn't wait to get back," Charlie said. "We've been here practically every day since the fire and we wanted to get back to business as soon as possible."

The Browns have owned and operated since the restaurant since 2000.

The owners exchanged warm welcomes with customers who came back on the day of the reopening.

"I love this place and I missed it every day it was closed," said Ponchatoula resident Jerry Shedd, longtime customer. "I've waited a long time for this ... the food is great and the staff here is always friendly."

For Springfield resident Kearney Foster, the reopening seemed akin to neighbors returning to town.

"Of course I missed the good food, but I also missed the people here," he said. "They're like family to me ... just good people who work very hard.

"It's places like that make it nice to live in a small town," said Hebert, who lives less than a mile from the eatery.

The restaurant opened one week behind schedule, Marla said.

In the process, loyal patrons called and inquired through social media about when -- or if -- the business would resume operation.  

Many missed the steaks, the seafood, the gumbo and the signature seafood-stuffed potato. Others missed the camaraderie with the owners and staff.

"It was a long process ... too long," she said. "But we had to start from scratch on the interior, and everything in here is new and nicer."

Charlie and Marla faced another challenge during the forced sabbatical.

Weeks after the fire, he underwent neck surgery that had been planned prior to the blaze. He still sported the neck brace the day of the return, even as he handled many of the chores and rigors at the restaurant.

Marla underwent back surgery two weeks before the reopening, but it did not stop her from working at the checkout counter and greeting guests.

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," she said. "In fact, I couldn't."

"How could I have done that when people called frequently to tell us they miss us and wanted us to come back?" Marla said.

In the meantime, employees -- all of whom came back opening day -- helped with much of the cleanup and return during the impromptu hiatus. They even helped with the flooring in the dining area, Charlie said.

Charlie said he and his wife received close to 10,000 replies to posts on social media regarding the return of the restaurant.

The reopening brought a huge sigh of relief to the owners after what they called "the three longest months of their life."

"To be back in here today is proof there is a tomorrow," Charlie said.

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