‘Everything is gone:’ Richland restaurant owner seeks community’s help to rebuild after housefire

RICHLAND, Wash. — You don’t even have to be inside of the building to smell the delicious barbecue, house-smoked meats, and homemade sauces at Baby J’s in Richland.

The restaurant has served as owner Nancy Mack’s “home away from home” for the past eight years.

Its namesake stems from her now 9-year-old son.

“When Josiah was born he actually died a couple of times and so then he had to be airlifted to Sacred Heart,” Mack said. “We had to stay away from the food industry for about 15 months and then we said you know, Lord, next time we’re just going to name the restaurant after Josiah.”

Mack said it was a tough situation, but one that strengthened the family.

“It’s just a reminder that even though we went through something very harsh we were able to actually come out of that,” Mack said.

But after a tragedy last week, the Mack family is having to rely on that strength once again.

Mack and Josiah were at her older son’s house when around 2:30 a.m., she got a phone call from a neighbor that no one wants to hear.

Her husband had woken up the sounds of his motorbike’s battery pack exploding.

“It was like bullets went flying all over the house,” Mack said. “The house was totaled on the inside. Totaled. I mean everything’s gone pretty much.”

The explosion caused multiple fires to start, scorching the inside of the house.

Thankfully, besides minor bruises, no one was hurt but all of their possessions had burned.

“That weekend we were supposed to get our Christmas tree, put it up, we actually made room for all that,” Mack said. “We’re starting from the bottom up.”

When her friend of three years, Heather McCollom, heard the news, she immediately knew she wanted to help.

“She’s a wonderful person. She has a heart of gold, she’s a giver, she’s humble and kind,” McCollom said. “Anybody in need, she’s always willing to lend a hand.”

McCollom said a tragic accident like this is the last thing anybody needs after a rough couple of years.

“The pandemic and everything that it’s thrown into 2021 has not been an easy year. Then to add a home fire that is a total loss and takes every single thing you own is just devastating,” McCollom said.

So she created a GoFundMe which garnered thousands of dollars overnight.

“Anybody whose ever walked in this place and has had a chance to talk to her and eat her food has been blessed, so it’s our turn as a community to return blessings,” McCollom said.

The family is currently living at a hotel while they find a new place to stay.

Mack said she’s “beyond words” at the outpouring of support.

“The amount doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact people are willing to help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Mack said.

If you want to help out, you can donate to the GoFundMe here or you can reach out to Heather here.

Baby J’s is located at 2243 Stevens Dr. in Richland.