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News Story
Updated: 08/20/2014 08:00:01AM

Still in business

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John Van Horn, who works at Heartland For Children, gets his lunch Friday from Debbie Wise at Terry Lobb Catering in the Bartow Health Center.


Debbie Wise (left) and Oleta McKinsey work at the cash register at Terry Lobb Catering's breakfast and lunch area on Friday.

Terry Lobb


Terry Lobb on the day of the fire at Lobb's Catering in January.


Soot-filled equipment from inside Lobb Catering was taken outside after a fire destroyed the place in January.


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Less than eight months after a fire burned out her business. Terrie Lobb is back at the Bartow Health Center. The return of Terrie Lobb Catering will be celebrated 4 p.m., Friday, Aug. 22, with a grand reopening.

“We are thrilled to be back,” Lobb said last week. Although the grand re-opening is Friday, Terrie Lobb Catering officially reopened Aug. 4 at the 1239 W. Main St. location.

Still not completely sure what caused the fire, she said it was the worst times of her life.

“The kitchen was entirely destroyed and everything else was covered in soot,” she said of the Jan. 21 fire.“We went through hell,” she recalled.

However, phoenix-like out of the ashes, the catering firm arose, hardly missing a beat. Immediately afterward, employees pulled out whatever equipment was still usable and washed it off. The landlord, Brian Hinton, helped her get the business area back into shape and a church allowed her to stay in business by allowing her to use its commercial kitchen.

Now the 15-year-old business has returned to a better-looking facility both for her catering business and breakfast and lunch dining room.

“This was the worst period of time I’ve ever been through,” she said. “But so many reached out to be supportive and we never would have survived without the good people.”

One of those good “people” was the First Baptist Church, which allowed Terrie Lobb Catering to use its kitchen.

“God orchestrated the whole thing,” the Rev. Ron Burks said. “It impacted them greatly. It worked out well because God was there. He gets the credit.”

But certainly the church deserves some of the credit and Burks said during the seven months the catering business operated from the church, there was never any elbow-butting.

“We worked cooperatively together amazingly well,” he said. “When we had events, they moved their stuff out of the way. In fact, on several occasions, their crew stepped in and helped us.”

“Without them (the help) there wouldn’t have been a business,” Lobb said.

While Lobb has specialized in catering events, her dining business in the health center is all the rage at the former hospital facility.

“I come here every day,” said Linda Getschman, an employee at Good Shepherd Hospice. Following the fire she usually brought something from home for lunch.

“The food is excellent,” said John Van Horn, an employee of Heartland For Children. He said the dining room is larger than it used to be and looks more open. Plus it features a salad bar.

Then there is the price of meals. As an example, on the menu this past Friday was a citrus glazed ham for $3.50, soup for either $1.50 or $2.50, and vanilla cake and brownie trifle for $1.25. While lunch is the main meal it serves, the dining room is also open for breakfast.

Although the majority of business comes from those in the health center, Lobb said anyone can come down for lunch.

“Anytime I have a business meeting, we always come here,” Getschman said.

Lobb said one of the reasons for her success — she started this business when she was 20 when it was just she and her aunt — is the versatility. The business can handle business gatherings to high-end weddings. While the catering end has brought in most of the income, the dining room aspect has helped. Along with the business in Bartow, there is a cafeteria she runs at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Winter Haven. That cafe is available only to the few hundred who work at the sheriff’s office.

Glad to be back where she has spent most of her time, Lobb said she was thankful to everyone who helped her stay on her feet and pointed out that her landlord, Brian Hinton, was very helpful in getting her business going again at the health center.

“I felt when I moved to Bartow I became part of something,” she said. “I want to help people here like they helped me.”

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