A fire on March 24 destroyed the Point of Rocks Restaurant and Lounge in Olney, a beloved family establishment famous for its prime rib and its off-the-beaten path locale in the Tobacco Valley.
The fire also displaced the family of four that owns the restaurant and lives in an adjacent home, prompting an outpouring of community support.
Greg and Angie Johnson have owned the Point of Rocks Restaurant since 1994, purchasing the eatery, which is situated on a narrow strip of U.S. Highway 93 nearly 30 miles north of Whitefish, from former longtime owner Ross Meester, who raised his own family while running the restaurant and living on site.
The Johnson family had recently closed the restaurant temporarily due to public-health concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.
On March 24, engine crews from Olney Fire and Ambulance, the Whitefish Fire Department, Trego/Fortine/Stryker Fire, and Eureka Fire responded to the scene in the early evening and fought the blaze for 17 hours. A total of nine engines responded to the scene.
Although the cause of the fire remains under investigation, Greg Johnson said he believes it was ignited when a wall heater malfunctioned in the family’s home.
“We are very sad to report that the Point of Rocks is a total loss,” according to a Facebook post by Olney Fire and Ambulance. “Our deepest condolences to Greg, Angie and family for the loss of not only your business but your home.”
“We are pleased to report that there was no loss of life and no firefighter injuries during this 17-hour fire,” the post continued.
The Johnson family has taken refuge at nearby Dog Creek Lodge, where the owners are friends and had closed due to public-health concerns.
“Greg, our kids and I are at a loss of words for everyone’s generosity, kind words and love during this time,” Angie posted on Facebook. “Thank you.”
In a separate post, the Johnsons shared a photo of the restaurant’s dining area taken the day before the fire broke out, and asked customers to share memories and photos of their dining experiences.
The effusion of stories that followed offer a glimpse into the spirit of community the restaurant stoked as locals shared memories of birthday celebrations, Christmas meals, anniversaries, engagements, and wakes.
“I went there for prom in 1985. I have spent every special occasion there my whole life,” one woman wrote. “I was so upset driving by the Point burning down. I cried my eyes out. So glad you are all safe but so sad about my favorite restaurant ever and always.”
A GoFundMe page quickly followed news of the restaurant’s destruction, and as of March 27 nearly $10,000 had been raised to assist the Johnson family.
“One of us can’t bring the Point of Rocks back, but all of us can,” the fund’s organizer wrote. “If the Point of Rocks and the Johnson family have made an impact in your life as much as they have in mine, maybe you’ll want to donate.
“Whether you know the Johnson family, you’ve eaten at their restaurant, your kids have grown up with theirs, you’ve played golf with Greg, or if this family has made even the slightest of impact on you, your life, or in the life of your family, I call you today to act and give back what the Johnson’s have given so freely for years.”
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/point-of-rocks-fire-johnson-family.