Businesses impacted by severe winter weather

Published 2:33 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Story by Hunter Cloud and Sabrina Robertson

The once packed Dianne’s Frame Shop on John R. Junkin Drive stood empty of everything except a few buckets catching water that was still dripping from the ceiling and fluorescent light fixtures on Monday.

The shop, which has been open for more than 40 years, has been closed due to water damage from last week’s severe winter weather. At this point, it is unclear when it will reopen, owner Dianne Kirby said.

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“We are going to try our best,” Kirby said of reopening her store. “I don’t know how or when but we’re going to try.”

Everything from the carpet, walls and ceiling endured significant water damage when sleet and snow melted through the roof of the building. The weight of the water caused whole ceiling tiles and the insulation behind them to break and collapse onto the floor.

“The whole thing will have to be redone from carpet to ceiling,” she said. “The walls of the building will have to be gutted to make sure there isn’t any mildew.”

Kirby said all of her customers’ photos and store merchandise were saved.

However her mats, molding and framing material were ruined, Kirby said, adding she will have to start her framing and gift shop business over from scratch.

Kirby said she does not know how many dollars worth of damage that her business suffered during the storm.

“We’re still busy trying to document everything for insurance,” she said.

Kirby said she is grateful to customers, friends and neighbors who have checked in on her.

“I wouldn’t be here if it were not for them,” she said.

Kirby’s was not the only business to be damaged during the storm.

The Natchez Brewing Company co-owner Pat Miller said water leaked through the ceilings there as well, like many places throughout the city.

“It was raining in the brewery, 100 percent,” he said, adding the damage was minimal other than some drywall that will have to be replaced.

“Lucky for us, our floors are concrete. We deal with liquid and are built for that,” Miller said. “We did have to shut down in the middle of serving food because of the water.”

Miller said the brewery never lost power last week and continues to operate normally apart from not being able to use tap water while the city remains under a precautionary boil water advisory.

Thanks to the ample amount of freshwater stored in tanks, Miller said he has water to spare for anyone in the community who needs it.

“Other than extreme leaks and no water, we did ok,” he said. “People who still need water, we’re happy to help. Just call or stop by.”

John Parks, owner of Pearl Street Pasta, 100 Main and Magnolia Grill, said all of his restaurants leaked in some capacity with Pearl Street Pasta taking on the worst of the damage.

The water ruined ceilings, floors and drywall in the upstairs level of the building and some downstairs, Parks said.

“Right now, we’re functional but when we start doing construction in there we might have to close during some shifts and work around it,” he said, adding he’s not sure when all of the repairs will be finished.

The restaurants also lost food due to being closed down last week and not using supplies.

“This on top of COVID, I don’t know if there is any making it up,” Parks said. “We hope insurance covers it and are putting claims in like everyone else.”

All of the restaurants are currently back open at normal hours with some interruptions expected while the damages are repaired, he said.

“It certainly could have been a lot worse. A lot of people had major damage and won’t be able to reopen for some time,” Parks said. “You can’t beat mother nature.”

While many stores were forced to close due to weather or damage, some stores like Home Hardware in Natchez stayed open.

Store manager Buddy Whittington said the week of the storm was so busy he “could hardly see straight.”

Last week, customers flocked to the store in search of generators, heaters, gas lines, water and building supplies. This week they are looking to buy supplies to make repairs, Whittington said.

“I had several, several, several customers tell me they were glad we were open because they were in need,” he said. “It makes me feel great especially for my crew, my store, my employees here. We did what we needed to do to help the community.”

The store was only forced into closing temporarily on Thursday morning when the store lost power and was unable to open until approximately 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Whittington said.

In the three hours the store was open, Wittington said a skeleton crew of just two employees helped 76 customers.

He said the main challenge was getting employees to work safely during the winter storm. Employees who had four-wheel drive vehicles would pick up other employees and bring them to work, which allowed the store to stay open, Whittington said.

Power loss and some grocery chains like Supermarket Operations caused a significant loss of cold food items.

The storm knocked out power at the Ferriday Market for three days, Supermarket Operation President Barry Loy said.

The outages forced the store to throw away products because temperatures rose above what the food and drug administration mandates as safe for storage.

Loy said it was heartbreaking to lose a high amount of product.

“It does make you sick to your stomach,” Loy said. “We had one of those 18 wheeler sized dumpsters full over the top. It will make you sick, I don’t even want to think about it.”

Ferriday was the only one of Supermarket Operations’ stores that suffered an extended loss of power. Other stores lost power for a couple of hours and were able to limit the amount of food lost, Loy said.

Dry products such as canned food, toilet paper, dog food, charcoal and cereal are the few products whose supply chain was not impacted as severely by the storm. Loy said The Markets get their dry groceries from Associated Grocers Inc., a warehouse in Baton Rouge.

While ice and snow are no longer in the Miss-Lou area, he said the impact of the storm will continue to be felt by The Markets in Natchez, Ferriday and Vidalia in the coming weeks while the supply chains carrying meat, produce and dairy to the grocery stores are backed up, Loy said.

“It is still going to impact us because everything froze up from the New Mexico line all the way past us,” Loy said. “Everything we get from the western United States was just shut off. It will take a week or so for product flow to be back up to speed.”