DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - One of the hardest hit areas after the flood saw a good bit of traffic for Black Friday. That's because nearly 20 different stores at Juban Crossing are now open.
Beginning at 6 a.m., Belk's at Juban Crossing started ringing up customers after they waited in a line that wrapped around the building.
"Trying to get the bargains here, pillows, blankets, Christmas presents," said Daphne Bencaz, a shopper from French Settlement.
Belk's reopened Wednesday after they were closed for more than three months. Many of the stores in Juban Crossing have been closed since the flooding. Now, about 20 stores are open, including:
- Walk-On's Bistreaux
- Ross Dress for Less
- Pot & Paddle Jambalaya Kitchen
- La Nail Spa
- Mattress Firm
- Shoe Carnival
- Juban Crossing Modern Dentistry
- Lane Bryant
- Men's Wearhouse
- Moe's Southwest Grill
- TJ Maxx
"I'm really glad we don't have to go to Baton Rouge. It's so convenient to be here," said Bencaz. "This is the first time we've been and I'm so glad it's open. I know y'all took a hard hit, but it's great," said Mary Ann Cali, a shopper from Hammond.
"We had to basically gut the store down to the studs and rebuild, which normally takes six to eight months to rebuild and we actually did it in 13 weeks," said Belk's manager, Joshua Ballay.
Ballay also said they had to come back because for their employees, who are not only working on their first homes, but also helped rebuild their second home: their workplace. They say it gives them some level of normalcy.
For Yusalynda Chew, who lost everything in the flood, Black Friday means normalcy.
"I got boots to replace all the boots I lost to the flooding," said Chew. "This is the only Belk's out here and usually, we're from Mississippi, we go out there, but I'm glad we were able to come to this Belk's out here."
To be up and open for business just in time for the holidays is how the stores say they need to make up for lost time.
"This represents a pretty big chunk of all retailers' full year, so to get open at this busy time of the year, especially when there's not everything open, the faster you can open up, the faster you're going to recoup the lost sales of the past two months," said Ballay.
As for Livingston Parish as a whole, parish president, Layton Ricks, said their tax base is doing good so far.
"We've been holding our own the past couple of months after the flood, mainly because of people buying building material to rebuild their homes and the automobile sales. Some people lost up to two to three vehicles per household, where typically you're spread out over the entire year and we got a large bump from that, so that kept us about 1% loss for August, September, and October," said Ricks.
However, he said it'll be at least March before the holiday sales level off and they can get a real sense of how taxes were affected. In the meantime, some shoppers are able to take a break from rebuilding and enjoy a holiday tradition.
"Us coming back just shows the resiliency of our associates as much as anything else and the community," said Ballay.
Ricks said majority of the stores are expected to reopen some time before Christmas.