When Howie's Pizza and Subs burnt down last November, the community quickly came together to help owner Don Howard and the restaurant's employees in their time of need.

On Monday, they came together again - this time, to celebrate the grand re-opening of the rebuilt restaurant on South Keystone Avenue in Sayre.

Borough officials, state Rep. Tina Pickett, county commissioner Mark Smith and representatives of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce joined the Howard family in a ribbon cutting to mark the completion of the restaurant, which opens today.

Also present were members of Valley fire departments that assisted in battling the Nov. 20 fire that destroyed the former restaurant building, where Howie's had been located since 1996. Two Sayre fire trucks hung the American flag above the new entrance, as well as a banner that read "Rise From Your Ashes."

Owner Don Howard, himself a member of the Waverly-Barton Fire Department, thanked his fellow firefighters for their service. "They were here when we lost everything, and now they're here for a new beginning," he said.

"The night of the fire was devastating," said borough mayor Denny Thomas, who declared today Howie's Pizza Day and Don and Peggy Howard Day in Sayre. However, firefighters kept the blaze contained to the restaurant, doing their best to save what of the building they could, and nobody was injured, Thomas said.

The Howards had already committed to rebuilding before fire crews left the scene, Thomas said. After a five-month construction project designed and built by G. Webster Inc. of Athens, the new store will open nine months to the day from the morning of the fire.

"Today is a very special day for us," Howard said.

As for today's grand opening, Howard asked for patience from customers as the staff - some returning, some new - get back up to speed after nine months. "We're hoping it's going to be crazy," he said.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.