DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - Early summer of 2016 was relatively typical for the Denham Springs Antique Village. Business was steady. Both locals and tourists were talking about the newest hot collectibles, but the topic of conversation took a very unexpected turn during the month of August.
“Should I get some sandbags as a precaution? I said, ‘No, we’ve never flooded. You don’t need sandbags.’ So he went looking for some anyway, came back with bags with no sand and said, ‘If we find sand, I’ve got the bags.’ The very next day, I said, ‘Elvin, where’s the bags? Because I found some sand. But we’re not gonna’ need it. We’ll bring a dozen bags just in case,’” said Al Bye.
That conversation between Al Bye and Elvin Watts, the owners of Theatre Antiques Mall, marked the beginning of what would ultimately become a story of extreme perseverance and determination. And so it began... the crushing water of the flood of August of 2016 was indifferent to which buildings survived and which did not.
“Stunned, absolutely stunned, so we had a dozen sandbags that were of no value to us anymore, and so that was the beginning of realizing what kind of problem we had here," Bye said.
“Ended up, probably, with four feet of water in the front of the building, but in the rear, since it’s an old movie theater, and it goes down, there was seven and a half feet of water behind me," Watts said.
“Sixty percent of the Village didn’t even get water in their buildings. Forty percent did, but the 40 percent that did were devastated, but it affected 100 percent because everybody thought Antique Village flooded, so nobody came down here anymore," Bye said.
Deven Magee, the new owner of Design by Magee, was about to enter his last semester at LSU.
“It was such a tough experience going through the devastation of the flood. This was my grandmother’s store. She’d been here for 20 years. She had a lot of merchandise and the flood rearranged things like I had never seen before. We opened the door... all the windows were blown out in the front of the store, the glass in the doors, the doors were blown out, the furniture was floating down the street," said Magee.
Without a doubt, these are the times that try men’s souls, but what happened next is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit.
“The immediate thought was do we turn our back on it and say we’re done? Or do we go back, clean if out, and open it up?” Bye said. “We made the decision. We’re going to empty the building and we’re going to open back up."
By the end of October, Theatre Antiques was reopened, freshly painted, restocked, and ready to go. It took the Korner Shoppe a while longer. It reopened in 2018 and rebranded as Design by Magee. Deven and his cousin, Cade, are anxious to carry on their grandmother’s legacy, looking forward to what’s next for the Antique Village.
“I do not have one regret. I could not be more proud to be a part of this community and give back to this community that has helped us so much in the past few years," said Magee.