Sarah Wedl has dined at China Garden since before she was born.

Her mom and grandparents visited the restaurant with her mother was pregnant with Wedl.

After Wedl was born, her family went to the long-standing Frederick restaurant most Sundays after church. They sat in the back corner, a cozy spot for a casual family gathering. She ate there after she graduated from Hood College in 2018. 

China Garden is the first place she ever tried sushi. 

"I knew I was in good hands and that the fish would be the freshest, because of how meticulous the staff is," she said.

Between the family gatherings and attentive staff, the restaurant carved a special place in Wedl's heart. That's why she was so disheartened to hear the restaurant sustained extensive damage in a fire late Wednesday night.

"I mean, accidents happen, but it's not normally something that's top of mind. ... To see it suddenly damaged is heartbreaking," she said.

The restaurant, at 506 W. Patrick St., caught fire around 10:45 p.m. Wednesday and took about 60 firefighters approximately 25 minutes to extinguish, according to Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services Deputy Chief Steve Leatherman. 

First responders found heavy fire in the rear kitchen area and fire through the roof, Leatherman said. No one was injured, he added. The fire marshal's office had not announced a cause of the fire as of Thursday afternoon. The fire marshal's office had not reported a damage estimate either. 

But even before that information had been released, the community began rallying to support the Chiang family, which owns and operates the restaurant.

Wedl started a GoFundMe page with the hopes to raise $10,000 to help the restaurant cover any damage not covered by insurance. 

China Garden fire 2

Firefighters put out a fire at China Garden on West Patrick Street in Frederick late Wednesday night.

"I chose to start a GoFundMe for the restaurant because it's just been a large part of my family's history," Wedl said. "But anyone who's ever had health, vision, or any insurance knows that they never cover everything in its entirety. It's not only fire damage that they have to deal with. It's also replacing dry goods, any equipment, any furniture, and also their employees are without work until the restaurant is back in business. Everyone needs a little extra help, and I wanted to give back to [the Chiang family] for all the years [they've] been feeding mine."

As of Thursday afternoon, the GoFundMe page had raised nearly $1,000. Wedl said she was still trying to get in touch with the owners of the restaurant to verify where to send the money. The family declined to comment for this story.

The Chinese restaurant opened in 1984 and is one of the longest-operating restaurants in Frederick. It will remain closed for the foreseeable future, according to an announcement on its Facebook page. 

As news of the fire made the rounds, longtime customers expressed their condolences for the restaurant and praised the family for their service over the years.

"The staff and owners have always been great and deserve love from the community," said Nick Vattimo, who has eaten at the restaurant for the last six years, since his daughter was born.

China Garden fire

Firefighters put out a blaze Wednesday night at China Garden on West Patrick Street in Frederick.

Each year since, Vattimo and his family have celebrated Christmas by dining at China Garden. They visit family in Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve and drive home Christmas Day. After the traveling, they don't feel like cooking, so they celebrate at the restaurant.

Vattimo added that he hopes the family rebuilds and the community pitches in to help the restaurant get back on its feet.

For Wedl, the restaurant has long provided a sense of nostalgia that will now be lost. The interior hadn't changed much over the last 20 years, Wedl said. It made her feel at home and took her back to her childhood. She's carried her family tradition of dining at the restaurant on with her boyfriend, who she said is surprised her family has been dining at the same place for 30 years. 

"He comes from a military family and kind of bounced around during his childhood," she said.

But regardless of the loss of nostalgia, if and when the restaurant reopens, she'll be in line.

It's the feeling of comfort, and home (and the food) that will keep her coming back. 

Follow Allen Etzler on Twitter: @AllenWEtzler.

Allen Etzler is a city editor at the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at aetzler@newspost.com.

(31) comments

KR999

One of my earliest jobs was working here back in '71 when it was a Burger Chef.

Reader1954

principal your stupid is showing

FCPS-Principal

As is usually the case, the fire and smoke damage is minor, about a fourth of the total damage or less The fire fighters cause the rest with their hoses and axes. The fire fighters jump off their trucks with their picks and axes and high pressure hoses, and go to work. If they knew how to focus on putting out a fire instead of smashing and ruining the whole place, they would be more effective. Sixty fire fighters for one kitchen fire! Outrageous! Ten chiefs shouting orders, Ten lackeys swinging axes and sledge hammers, ten amateurs spraying high pressure water everywhere but on the fire, ten "communicators" gossiping on the radio, ten note takers writing reports, and ten genuinely knowledgeable fire fighters focusing on the fire. All riding in grossly expensive and unnecessary fire trucks replaced every 5 years. That's the way we fund fire departments now.

HappySeller2014

If my house caught on fire, i would rather have overkill on a firefighter response than only three folks and one truck show up.

This restaurant is in a busy commercial district. Warrants a large response.

These firefighters are highly trained. I know a bunch. Your first goal is to put a fire out. Often, the best way to attack it is from where the fire is not, especially if lives at stake. Smoke goes everywhere in an enclosed building, often far from a fire. Hence windows broken in. Helps dissipate smoke and compartmentalizes heat. Insurance companies can fix everything later.

FCPS-Principal, you a firefighter expert? As for myself, when I stop for gas, I like to fill up the whole tank. Why just continually put $10 in gas and stop every 100 miles? Same logic fighting fires. In a crisis or emergency, you want an overwhelming response...like the military. And many firefighters were in the military.

I hope your next emergency needs are not met with two raw new recruits on mopeds! And please do not respond to any of my future emergencies...a garden hose is not gonna cut it.

Scott_grimes1

In a busy commercial district? It is not in a strip mall or downtown. It is stand alone surrounded by asphalt.

I do agree though, some actions have to be done. Unless knowledgeable of the existing site, could be gas lines etc you will try to prevent fire getting to etc.

Both those said, one wonders though if better over all to let some structures burn down though. I am think is it cheaper to rebuild from scratch or to restore from extensive damage. That I will leave to others to decide.

Dwasserba

Wow you're like the Three Eyed Raven

joelp77440

Worst Sushi ever. Still, I did waste probably a thousand bucks on it.

HappySeller2014

I wish the owners a speedy recovery from this fire. And I hope all of the employees stay well until China Garden reopens.

This restaurant is a big part of the Federick community and supports our community well. Now it is time for us Frederick folks to show our support.

Rebuild, bigger and better. But never forget all of the good times over the years. Restaurants like these, and the folks who run them, are a blessing to us. I cannot wait to get back in line at the grand reopening.

Scott_grimes1

Or we could just tear the rest down and put a parking deck there, like the city did to others for "progress".

bpswp

Many students from WFMS stopped at CG when walking home to get their free bowl of rice. I wonder for how many this was their dinner. The owners of CG are wonderful people. For those of us who have been around for a while, we know that other restaurants at this location came and went. The owners at CG had and have what it takes to make a restaurant successful.

bradg

How about showing support for China Garden rather than worry about "where can I go now."

threecents

FNP, Can we have an update soon?

elymus43

Hometown Harvest Restaurant is a real good eating place along Carroll Creek.

TheDwayyo

Don't ask where else you can go, ask how you can help Allen and his family get back on their feet! This won't be the end of China Garden!

gardenwhimsey

Insurance will cover their repair.

fredneck

Thank you Dwayyo....well stated

Rockfish

Good thought but China Garden is the only Chinese Restaurant I go too so I need an interim choice

rbtdt5

I like Hunan Gourmet.

rpkrauss

👍

huskycats

Modern Asia, absolutely !

threecents

China Garden is a Frederick landmark, especially for the kids at Frederick High School. I hope they recover quickly.

Rockfish

My sympathies to the owners & staff. My families favorite Chinese restaurant. Where to I go now?

DickD

How about Modern Asia?

marinick1

[thumbup]

KellyAlzan

How bout IlFornos?

Marwin3105

Il Forno is delicious pizza, but.. We're talking about Chinese food Kelly! Not pizza! Get it together!

gothtype0

Hot Wok!

gardenwhimsey

PEKING GOURMET on Rt 85. It is in the shopping complex as Longhorn Steakhouse, Burger King, Common Market, etc.

mgoose806

China Garden is where born and raised Fred-necks eat Asian. All the other Asian Bistro's are for those that moved up here because too expensive to live in Montgomery County.

threecents

Real Fred-necks don't eat Asian food. Just beef & potatoes and bacon & eggs. Wash is all down with Dr. Thunder from Wal-Mart.

rbtdt5

Three - don't forget the Old Bay on the bacon and eggs and we don't drink Dr Thunder, we drink Natty Boh [beam]

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