I felt your pain, Ninety Six.

As many of you likely saw in the Index-Journal, the Hardee’s in Ninety Six caught fire last week, with a number of firefighters responding to battle a blaze that began in the restaurant’s kitchen.

According to a report from Index reporter Damian Dominguez, firefighters said the blaze started in a broiler. A fire suppression system went off, but couldn’t quell the flames. The fire reportedly made its way to the building’s attic, where it continued to burn and spread until firefighters were able to put it out.

The blaze led to the closure of the store until repairs can be made, and a district manager for the fast-food chain said the company would try to make arrangements for employees to pick up shifts at other locations.

As you might imagine, word of the fire spread quickly over Facebook and social media, drawing a number of different reactions, with many noting they were thankful there were no injuries associated with the fire.

I also spotted a number of folks on social media lamenting that the restaurant was to be closed while damages were assessed and repairs were analyzed. Specifically, some were openly wondering where the restaurant’s regular breakfast customers were going to go while the Hardee’s was idle.

I could sympathize with their plight. After all, what is a small South Carolina town to do without a Hardee’s where folks can gather for biscuits, coffee and a considerable amount of gossip?

I’m originally from Abbeville, so I know a little something about this. When I was a kid, Hardee’s was one of the only fast-food chains in our little city, and it was (and remains) the spot for breakfast.

When I was young, our family would often have breakfast at Hardee’s in the morning before school. And it wasn’t a “grab something quick through the drive-thru as we race off to the schoolhouse” kind of thing. We’d actually go in and order at the counter, and sit down together and have breakfast in the dining room there.

I never thought much about it as a kid, but now that I’m a parent I kind of marvel that my Mom and Dad got my brother and me out of bed, dressed and out the door in time to go have a sit-down breakfast at a restaurant and still get to school on time. They were teachers, so being on time for school was a must. We had to have been getting out of bed at the crack of dawn, but it didn’t bother me in the least.

I was always amazed at how crowded the Hardee’s was so early in the morning. I’d typically get a steak biscuit and an orange juice, and I’d use a plastic coffee stirrer to poke a hole in the foil at the top of the orange juice container.

We’d eat breakfast and talk about the day that lay ahead and my dad and I would read the newspaper. He’d always let me get first crack at the sports page. We’d usually buy a Greenville News from the row of newspaper boxes out front (remember when there were rows of newspaper boxes?), but sometimes we’d switch up to the Anderson Independent-Mail. Back in those days, the Index-Journal was an afternoon paper, so it was a no-go at breakfast.

But one of the hallmarks of those breakfasts was the large group of older men who would gather in the dining room seemingly every morning, regulars in every sense of the word. If you’ve ever been inside, well, virtually any Hardee’s in any small town in South Carolina during breakfast hours, you’ve likely seen just such a group of older men. They’d munch on their biscuits and pound coffee and hold forth with great gusto about politics and football and deer hunting and pickup trucks and all the news of the day, whether it was local, state or international. I’m not sure if that group of guys gathered in a Hardee’s in a tiny town in South Carolina was actually familiar with the geopolitical climate of Bosnia, but they certainly could have fooled me.

You never know what you might hear during breakfast at a rural Hardee’s. But it all goes down easy with a steak biscuit.

Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.