Route 66 Rock Cafe: Burned but Rebuilding

Rock Cafe Burned

Last week I sat with Dawn Welch among the sooty remains of the 1939 Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma. 


Rock Cafe Window Burned

Dawn Welch

Rock Cafe Menus

Dawn’s the inspiration for Sally the Porsche in the movie Cars.  Since buying the cafe 15 years ago, she has propelled it into the national and international spotlight.  It was one of the must-stops along the Mother Road.

At 11:20 p.m. on May 20, she got a call to tell her the cafe was burning.  (The cause of the fire is undetermined.  It wasn’t arson, electrical-, or weather-related.) By early the next morning, the flames were out, and the only things left standing were the four rock walls.

"Right away, everyone assumed I wouldn’t rebuild it," she said. "But there was never a consideration." 

Her resilience is amazing; her attitude is completely positive.  Not only is she going to rebuild, but she’s also determined to do it the right way.

"Luckily, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, and the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation office have all been taking a very active role in helping me."

Dawn’s family, friends, and community have pitched in to help with the cleanup.  She started a blog,, to document their progress, so check it out. 

I interviewed Dawn for an upcoming story on Route 66.  To hear excerpts from that interview, listen below.


  1. Linda

    The Rock Cafe will reopen on May 22, 2009.

    March 30, 2009 at 9:04 pm
  2. Linda

    Good news. Dawn has hired a preservationist who started work right after Thanksgiving. His name is David Burke who runs David Burke Historic Preservation out of Perry, OK. The goal is to have the Rock Cafe open in May 2009. Dawn has some great things to say about him and the progress of the work at her blog

    January 12, 2009 at 11:30 am
  3. Tanner

    Santa’s not the only one. Godspeed, Dawn!

    November 19, 2008 at 12:35 pm
  4. Elf Laur

    Santa is hoping that Dawn will have a special Christmas this year.

    November 19, 2008 at 8:08 am
  5. Tanner

    If you are interested in contacting Dawn Welch, the owner of the Rock Cafe, visit her blog:
    She has documented her rebuilding process, so you can do some research there. Also, by commenting on that blog, you may get to talk to her directly.
    Good luck,
    Tanner Latham
    Associate Travel Editor
    Southern Living

    November 5, 2008 at 4:07 pm
  6. Caitlin

    You did such a great job with the rock cafe, i feel like it’s such a historical land mark and everyone would have had a good time there. I can only imagine all your memories. I am doing a report for school on your cafe actually, where can i get some good information on it?
    & good luck
    feel free to email me.

    November 5, 2008 at 11:46 am


    July 17, 2008 at 3:25 pm

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