Owner of rival restaurant, others arrested for Pickens County arson

A Pickens County restaurant owner is facing first-degree arson charges. Deputies say Tyler Saurez conspired with five others to eliminate the main competition in town, Mary Ann’s Country Cooking, by allegedly setting it on fire on October 6.

Investigators said Tyler Saurez opened Bee's Home Cooking restaurant in January but was struggling to compete with the already established and popular restaurant down to the street.

“They busted the window and poured something on the floor and we realized later it was gas,” said restaurant owner Mary Ann Shields.

The damage to Mary Ann’s restaurant was extensive.

“It destroys me because I don’t know how to be mean and vicious like that to somebody,” said Shields.

But Investigators said business for Suarez didn’t improve.

“For whatever reason, it didn’t appear to have worked as he had hoped and then conspired with someone else to do the same to his own restaurant,” said Capt. Kris Stancil, Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.

“There’s no understanding that because now it’s not just my people who are out of work, it’s his people,” said Shields.

No one was injured in either fire but the impact on the community and employees has been overwhelming.

“I have 12 employees who now have nothing. They trying to find work just to get by.”

Shields hopes to reopen by the new year but is still planning to continue the tradition of serving hundreds of people a free meal thanksgiving day. However, this year it will be held at Pickens County High School from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s free for anyone in the community.

For more information: https://facebook.com/events/418029362446024/