Serving up malts again soon? Restaurant hopes to open for balloon racePublished 12:06am Friday, October 12, 2012
NATCHEZ — When a speeding Dodge Durango crashed through the front of The Malt Shop Sunday, owner Gloria Neames said she thought it would be a month before she could open the business again.
Now, she’s aiming to be open for the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race next weekend.
The Malt Shop was unexpectedly closed Sunday when — in the second such accident in 15 months — a vehicle crashed through the front of the business at a high rate of speed.
But just four days after the accident, all of the structure’s damaged cinder block had been replaced, and Neames said Thursday that the front framework of the 1950s-style fast-food drive-through restaurant was being rebuilt.
“They had originally told me (Sunday) I would be closed a month, but everybody is working really hard, and they are trying their best to get me back open by balloon weekend,” Neames said. “In this economy, that’s a big time for us.
“I have employees that need their jobs, and I need to get back open as well.”
In July 2011, The Malt Shop — which is located where Martin Luther King Jr. Street ends at Homochitto Street — was closed for a few days after a motorist accelerating to flee from a law enforcement vehicle did not negotiate the turn from one street to the next in his sedan.
Sunday’s accident happened after the driver of a SUV failed to decelerate and struck another vehicle at the Martin Luther King Jr. Street stoplight, hitting the other vehicle — and sending it into a nearby house — before the SUV struck the Malt Shop.
Neames said in the last week she has been overwhelmed by support from the community.
“I have had tons and tons of hugs and offers of help; the community response has just been phenomenal,” she said. “People have made me cry repeatedly by their gestures of kindness. I really, really, really appreciate it, more than you know — especially the hugs.”
One group of people in the community that has decided to show that support is the Krewe of Fat Mamas, which will be having a fundraiser Oct. 31 to benefit the Malt Shop.
“We were kicking around the idea of doing a small event for Halloween prior to the accident, and after it happened, we decided that we should do something to help The Malt Shop in conjunction with Halloween,” Fat Mamas Tamales owner David Gammill said.
“This has obviously put The Malt Shop out and Gloria out as well, and we thought it would be a good way to help her out after having a tough time.”
The fundraiser will include a guess the number of hot tamale candies in the jar contest, with all proceeds going to The Malt Shop, a silent auction for an LSU-themed garden ornament, a 50-50 bucket with half proceeds going to the winner of the bucket and half to the Malt Shop and a donation of $1 from every draft beer sold. Fat Mamas will also be accepting donations for The Malt Shop not connected to contests or beer consumption as well, Gammill said.
Neames said knowing such efforts are going on in the community make her feel really loved.
While structural progress is being made on her business, Neames said she is evaluating what equipment she absolutely needs to get back in operation.
“The plate glass will not be in by the balloon race, but if they will just give me some plywood to put up, as long as I have a window to serve out of, I will be fine,” she said. “I just need my kitchen back and my people and my customers.
“I have been told by so many people in this community that ‘You just get open, you will have the business.’ People are getting milkshake withdrawals.”