The 6:00 hour on a Sunday evening is not long before sunset, even in the early weeks of Daylight Savings Time. But for two prominent businesses, the evening hours meant something more akin to a sunrise.
Early on Sunday evening, we saw the prelude to what will be the re-launch of the Walmart Supercenter on Range Avenue. Roughly a quarter-mile south of the retail giant, Big Mike’s celebrated the airing of the “Bar Rescue” episode which documented its comeback.
Unlike Walmart, Big Mike’s has been back in business since November, just a couple weeks after Jon Taffer and his crew implemented a barnstorm renovation of the popular eatery for the Spike reality series.
It’s definitely signs that some semblances of normalcy are gradually resurfacing in Denham Springs and throughout Livingston Parish. Many residents lamented the loss – even temporarily – of many of the businesses and services they perhaps took for granted prior to the flood.
For Walmart, it’s the return of the biggest retail store in the parish and, of course, the largest company in the world. We’ve kicked around Walmart at some points over the years – deservedly so, at times – but it definitely has a place in communities.
Needless to say, a Walmart, McDonald’s and a chain motel seem to be the components that put smalltown American on the map, particularly in areas around an interstate highway.
Big Mike’s is a different type of establishment, one which combines the comfort of a sports bar with the atmosphere in which a family can enjoy a good meal at decent price (no … I didn’t get a “comp” meal for writing that). It’s one of those places in which the staff know many of the patrons on a first-name basis, much like G&J Drive-In in Livingston, Sandwich Shop in Albany, Wayne’s Barbecue in Livingston, or James Grill and The Whistlestop in Denham Springs, to name a few.
The return of Big Mike’s meant the comeback to another gathering placed where folks will meet to watch a game, catch up on the local news and perhaps celebrate a birthday or anniversary. It’s also a popular meeting spot for the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, along with other civic groups.
The gathering Sunday night to watch the episode of “Bar Rescue” left many men and women with a tear in their eyes. It documented the hardships and resilience not only of the business proprietors, but their employees. The festive atmosphere at the end of the evening certainly proved once again the loyal followers of Big Mike’s were happy to have their local gathering spot back in business.
We should not forget, however, that many residential areas – and even some businesses – still have a long road on the comeback trail, and many have already chosen to seek new pastures. Many residents continue to grapple with FEMA, insurance adjustors, mortgage holders and contractors.
For many, the experience has left them feeling a sense of grief, despair and hopelessness. Congressman Garret Graves, who spoke at the Walmart opening, has expressed his frustration at the move by the state to throw out bids by companies to manage the homeowner program. The move has put him at odds with Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has said the delay will be minimal. We shall see.
In the meantime, homeowners wait in angst to see when or even if they will have a chance to rebuild, or if they will have to move elsewhere. Unfortunately, the wait does not seem close to an end for many of the homeowners.
We’re seeing one business after another gradually return to Livingston Parish. It’s an encouraging sign that we’re headed back to normalcy.
But amid the tidy, refurbished storefronts and the glitzy new signs in front of the businesses, many residents still find themselves stuck at Square One.
It’s great to see the sun rise again for many of the familiar businesses in Livingston Parish. On the same token, we must not forget that many homeowners remain very much in the dark.