Knollwood Street is now home to many businesses including Bank of America, Chick-Fil-A and Krispy Kreme’s headquarters. Change over the decades is inevitable, but turnover in this area happened quickly thanks to a big boom.

In the early morning hours of January 18, 1988, the K&W Cafeteria exploded. A popular local favorite during the sixties, seventies and eighties – gone, leveled.

Back then, 25-year-old Kelly Hancock worked at the Sheraton Hotel attached to the K&W. She was the night auditor.

In the very early morning, she says K&W’s maintenance man called her reporting he smelled gas. She then called a Sheraton maintenance crew.

"I was still on the phone with a gentleman and that's when all the fun happened,” she said laughing.

Hancock was sitting at a desk when she felt the room change.

"I felt myself lifting up to where my knees hit the bottom of the cabinet there. Then, I don't remember too much directly thereafter, but trying to get out of the room that was destroyed,” she said.

K&W Cafeteria and attached Sheraton Hotel in Winston-Salem after 1988 explosion. (Courtesy: The Winston-Salem Journal)

Hancock says to her, strangely the explosion was silent.

“It was so quiet. That was a really strange thing about it. It was so very quiet,” she said, adding that she did not hear a boom.

The K&W Cafeteria was no more. Although Hancock didn't, others for miles heard the explosion. It interrupted power, blew out windows and spewed debris for blocks. The hotel was intact, but damaged.

"It literally picked the building up and dropped it," said Hancock.

She helped direct hotel guests to a nearby gas station. Over the next few weeks she was interviewed by the NTSB and fire chief and had to make several depositions.

"For a 24, 25-year-old it was pretty heavy duty," she said.

She remembers what happened and is glad to be here to recount it, but says she doesn’t think of the explosion often.

Miraculously, no one was killed. Several people, including Hancock, had varying levels of injuries. The Sheraton was demolished and Hancock had to find another job.

The cause was eventually determined to be a pipe that wasn’t properly maintained which flooded K&W’s basement with gas. An investigation blamed the gas company.

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