- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PERU, Ind. (AP) - B-K West is more than just a drive-in restaurant to its owner, J.D. Hann. It’s a piece of his childhood, a historic Peru landmark, and it’s his baby.

“I grew up with this place,” the 57-year-old Peru native told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1qZZg8C ). “We used to walk the tracks on Saturday and come here and drink root-beer floats back when they were a quarter. It’s always been a part of me.”

That’s why it hurt so badly when an EF-1 twister tore through the eatery known for its hot dogs, hamburgers and floats back in July.

The powerful storm turned the steel drive-in canopy into a twisted piece of rubble and smashed an employee’s truck into a fence.

The building that housed the kitchen also sustained damage. That’s where the six girls working at the time hid during the tornado’s fury.

“The girls went into the bathroom,” Hann said. “They were diving for the floor. It was horrifying. But nobody got hurt, and that’s the main thing.”

After the storm, cleanup workers found parts of the canopy two miles away on the municipal golf course.

The destruction was devastating to Hann, who’s owned the 64-year-old restaurant for the last 12 years.

And now that it’s being rebuilt, the part of Hann that was crushed when his restaurant crumbled is being restored.

Construction on the new canopy started earlier this month, and the restaurant that’s normally open from March to October should be serving up its iconic drive-in food by the end of the month, Hann said.

“It’s 64 years old, and now she’s coming back - arose from the grave, so to speak,” he said.

Coming back with the restaurant are the 20 girls who worked as cooks and carhops before B-K West shut down after the tornado.

Hann said all the employees are excited about heading back to work, and he’s excited to see them all together again.

“The girls mean a lot to me,” he said. “They’re like my children. . It’s just a fun group, and we have a fun time down here. It’s always a joke fest. Every day’s April Fools.”

Although Hann could have rebuilt a bigger and fancier canopy, he said he’s keeping it simple and giving it the same look it’s had since the beginning.

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