By Hank Wiesner and Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel
RIPLEY – Renfrow’s Cafe located on the Square in Ripley caught fire by what started as a small grease fire at approximately 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to manager Molly Self. Erin’s On The Square is currently operating Renfrow’s.
Self said she and four other employees were just beginning to serve lunch when a grease fire started. She said the fire was sucked up through an air vent into an attic and erupted into flames. Self said customers were in the long-standing establishment but all escaped unharmed.
Ripley Fire Department, Ripley Police Department and members of the Tippah County Sheriff’s Department were on the scene and as of noon, no other businesses near Renfrow’s were in danger. The fire is out.
The building sits adjacent to Northeast Aging Services. Bystanders helped move tables and chairs out of the building for precaution.
Ripley librarian and local historian Brent Grisham said Wednesday afternoon: “We have not been able pinpoint the date of the building of Renfrow’s Café. We believe it would have to be in the late 1920s or early 1930s.”
Carl Lee Nance of Ripley, who owns Nance Hardware across the square from Renfrow’s, has childhood memories of the café. He said that as a boy, his parents would sometimes go on a business trip to Memphis. When they did, and knew they wouldn’t be back in time to provide supper, they would give Carl Lee a dime. He would then go to Renfrow’s for a nickel hamburger and a nickel Coca-Cola.
Elaine McMillin also has fond memories of Renfrow’s. She began work there in 1951 and would wake up at 4 a.m. to open at 5 a.m., she recalled.
Grisham also has memories of Renfrow’s. “I can remember sitting on the square in the late 1980s, selling watermelons with my uncle Thomas Grisham. We would go over to Renfrow’s for lunch each day that summer.”