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Pub owner touched by community support after fire

SUMMERSVILLE — Maloney's Pub boasts an impressive collection of autographs on its walls.

They come from noted Mountaineers past and present, including basketball star Darris Nichols, University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, former WVU football coach Don Nehlen and current coach Dana Holgerson.

But they are not Aaron Maloney's favorite autographs. Those are collected on a large white poster that hangs just outside the kitchen, beside photos of the fire that devastated his restaurant earlier this year.

On the poster are the signatures and well wishes of community members who supported the restoration.

Austin Cox, 21, of Craigsville, was arrested in July for several arsons in the Summersville area, including the Feb. 24 torching of Maloney's Pub on Church Street.

Cox allegedly threw two Molotov cocktails — explosives usually favored by third-world terrorists — through the women's restroom window and the window in Maloney's office.

"About 4 in the morning I got a text from Aaron's cousin saying the place was on fire," said general manager David LeRose.

Head chef Daniel Groves got a similar text message.

"Aaron's like, 'Maloney's in ashes.' That's all it said," Groves said, laughing. "I thought I had set it on fire. I thought I had left gas on or something."

Maloney and his employees can laugh about the fire now, but the mood was somber a few months ago.

Photos hanging near the kitchen show the aftermath. The fire destroyed the kitchen, the back patio and a good portion of the dining room. The televisions hanging in the bar melted. There's one snapshot of a fire-blackened fridge with a "flying WV" magnet still stuck to door.

Insurance covered most of the losses. The bar now has a completely renovated kitchen, designed to Maloney's specifications. The back deck is better than ever, now sporting a roof and its own bar.

But some things were irreplaceable.

"Memorabilia, there's no price on it," Maloney said.

He lost his father's collection of WVU ticket stubs from the 1960s and '70s.

"They're gone. They're dust," he said.

He lost other items, too. Some were burned, while others were ruined by smoke and water damage. Of the pictures he did salvage, many had to be placed in new frames.

His mirrored Yuengling sign now sports a smoky patina. The plastic is melted on his "House that Ruth Built" Yankees plaque, though the pictures appear untouched.

To help Maloney rebuild his collection, Sherry Stickler, a frequent Maloney's customer and owner of the Electric Chair Salon, organized a fundraiser at a local reception hall a few weeks after the fire.

About 400 people showed up for the gathering. Local businesses held silent auctions to raise money for Maloney's employees. Community members donated WVU memorabilia to refill the sports bar's walls.

Guests also signed an eight-foot-tall poster with

encouraging messages.

"Hurry back," one couple wrote.

"Best wishes to the best hangout EVER," another scrawled.

"We're with you!" penned someone with an illegible signature.

An Irish drinking toast at the top of the poster reads, "May the roof above us never fall in and may the friends beneath it never fall out."

"It was overwhelming," Maloney said of the party. "I may not have opened back if there wasn't such a strong support from the community."

Maloney's Pub reopened in late June, almost four months to the day after it burned. Although some employees took other jobs while crews were rebuilding the place, all of Maloney's workers came back when the pub reopened.

And, in a strange way, arson was good for business.

"It's going great. I got a lot of publicity out of the fire," Maloney said.

He said his business has become a fixture of the community. Last week, a former high school classmate came into the bar, having just returned to Summersville from his third tour in Iraq.

That's part of the reason Maloney opened his bar in the first place, on the night of the 2010 Friends of Coal Bowl.

"I decided this place needed it. I wanted a place where you could watch a game, eat some wings and drink a cold beer," he said.

His hunch proved correct. And that's why, come game day, you'll probably hear a few "let's go Mountaineers" cheers coming from Church Street.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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