DULUTH -- Bud Knox said members of his Sunday school group have been eating breakfast on Tuesday mornings at the Duluth Rexall Grill for 25 years.
The group had to miss a few breakfasts after the state shut down the restaurant June 24 because the grill's former operator, Gail Herrin, owes $248,400 in state taxes. With interest, penalties and a collection fee, the number soared to $500,336.60.
Early Tuesday morning, Knox and others were able to resume their weekly tradition of feasting on eggs, biscuits and coffee.
Lynda Alley, the owner of the Duluth Rexall Pharmacy and Grill, reopened the diner under her own business license. The reopening was advertised only through word of mouth, and regulars packed the eatery during the breakfast and lunch hours.
"We missed them while they were gone," patron Tom Martin said. "When they wasn't here, we had to find something else."
The Duluth resident said he frequents the grill two to three times a week.
"You come in and usually see somebody you know and have a little conversation," he said. "It's a friendly atmosphere."
Duluth City Councilman Billy Jones came to the diner for breakfast and lunch on Tuesday.
"I always come two or three times a week," he said.
Alley had originally hoped to reopen sooner than Tuesday, but her plans were delayed when she found out she had to install a new grease trap and have other renovations to bring the restaurant up to code.
In all, the work cost about $69,000, she said.
"It was a lot of work and a lot of money," Alley said. "We had 20 days to get all this done. It took a miracle to get all this done."
Outfitted with a new grease trap, a new dishwasher, some updated plumbing and a soon-to-be- repaved parking lot, the diner retained much of its original look -- minus some of the memorabilia that adorned the walls.
Herrin held an auction of the prized Coca-Cola memorabilia from the store to pay down her debt. Alley said many of the customers who purchased items gave them back to the diner.
Alley said many community members have expressed support. In fact, two people stopped Monday night to prepay for breakfast because they wanted to be the first customers.
A Bible quote written on a sign near the front entrance seemed to capture the enthusiasm: "For I have plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Alley said a grand opening is scheduled for Saturday.