In mid 2018, as workers rebuilt the burned-out Lancaster Dispensing Co., co-owner Bradley DeForge got a sign that the long process ultimately would prove worth the time and effort.

So many customers were stopping by, tapping on the windows and asking when the “DipCo” would reopen that the workers covered the glass with dark paper to end the interruptions.

The restaurant and bar's patrons got their answer on Oct. 22, 2018, when the downtown landmark reopened following a shutdown lasting 13 months and a rebuild costing “well over” $1 million.

And as the reopening’s one-year anniversary on Tuesday approaches, that high volume of curious passersby in summer 2018 has turned out to be an accurate omen of how the revived DipCo would fare.

“It’s exceeded our expectations. It’s both touching and rewarding — how the community has rallied behind us since the moment we reopened,” said DeForge.

“We’ve had record sales this past year,” up more than 10% from the pre-fire level, he said.

“It’s been unbelievable. Of course, some of it is a reflection on downtown,” which has added hundreds of office workers since the fire struck, noted DeForge. “But a lot of it is a reflection on us.”

The rebuilt DipCo. at 33-35 N. Market St., next to Lancaster Central Market, looks similar to the original that opened in 1978, though a larger kitchen and longer bar cut the seating by a half-dozen to 91. A small stage was removed; men’s and women’s bathrooms were changed to three unisex restrooms.

Even the staff looks similar. DeForge said 23 of the 25 employees at the time of the fire have returned; two long-time cooks retired. The total payroll has grown to 31, including DeForge and Judy Ross, its co-owner and co-manager.

DeForge thanked Duff Builders, Tippetts Weaver Architects and Clark Food Service Equipment, plus cooperative city officials, for their roles in reopening the business.

“People are really really really happy to have us back,” said DeForge, “and we are too.”