KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Lenoir City man isn’t giving up his dream to build a restaurant that he can pass down to his granddaughter despite a suspected arson destroying the building he planned to house it in.
Law enforcement continues their hunt for answers after two barns were destroyed in a fire in Lenoir City. The TBI and the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office believe the fires were set on purpose.
It turns out this isn’t the first hurdle one of these property owners has had to face since he purchased the property.
The barn that sits at 11025 Hotchkiss Valley Road East used to be an old cattle farm but when Ricky Miles bought the land he had big dreams of wanting to make it into a restaurant.
He’s run into some hurdles over the past several years but he says that’s not stopping him from making his dreams into reality.
Miles started buying his now 41.5-acre farm in sections starting in 1983.
The family that originally owned the property across the street from his first purchase wasn’t so happy when Interstate 75 was cutting their property in half. However, where they saw problems, Miles saw an opportunity.
“Ever since I bought the property, I was always interested in having that piece down there with the barn on it,” Miles said. “Because I always thought that, what the family thought, was the worst thing that ever happened could be one of the best things that ever happened if it was turned into a restaurant.”
He was making good progress, too. He had renderings drawn up and was putting his own sweat equity into the project. However, those plans were halted when a semi truck ran into the barn back in 2019.
Miles was just starting to work on other projects on the property and starting to fix that damage when the barn caught fire earlier this month.
He said neither of these setbacks is going to stop him from rebuilding.
“I’ll be 76 years old in April but I intend to put it back just like I said I was going to do to start with.”
“I had such high hopes for it originally and I’d hate to just abandon it,” Miles added.
He said his granddaughter Amber is the one who keeps him going on the project because one day he’ll pass it all on to her, making his dreams become her reality.
Miles said he’s not looking for any financial help from the community. He just hopes that getting his story out there will help authorities find out who may have burnt his barn down so he can continue to finish his project.
The TBI is offering up to a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
Anyone with information about the fires is asked to contact the TBI arson hotline at 1-800-762-3017.