Local businesses coming back
Published 11:13 pm Monday, October 11, 2004
By By Arthur McLean
At any other time, it might be shocking to walk into a floor coverings store like Atmore Carpets and see a bare concrete floor, but these are not ordinary times.
Nor would you expect to see a furniture store with no furniture in it.
But Diane Baggette of Atmore Carpets and Joey Kelly of Joey's Furniture echo many other business owners in town, Ivan set them back, but they're coming back strong as ever.
Atmore Carpets lost its roof and front windows during Hurricane Ivan. The inventory was damaged, the roof and air conditioning are gone, but they're still doing business.
"We lost most of our stock in the storm. We restocked, and now we've sold most of that," Baggett said.
DeeDra Kelley at Joey's Furniture said family members and more have been hired to get the store back together after the storm. "We've been working 12-hours days since Ivan, like just about everybody," Kelly said.
Joey's Furniture looks more like the inside of a great shell than a store. The ceilings, carpet and inventory were stripped out due to water damage, but like other businesses, the staff has been at the store, helping customers with payments and insurance issues.
"We've had to rent two building for our inventory, and we have two trucks of furniture ordered for when we get the place fixed," said Joey Kelley.
Both Baggett and the Kelley's suffered roof damage and extensive water damage in their stores. But both are working with their insurance companies and plan to come back better than before. Ivan simply forced them to remodel.
With other stores in town, it will take longer to recover from Hurricane Ivan, if at all. Buster's Restaurant is still closed, but Emilie Mims, director of the Atmore Chamber of Commerce said she was told repair work is progressing on the restaurant for eventual reopening.
But there is a question mark hanging over long-time Atmore fixture, Sutton's Cafe. When contacted by the Atmore Advance, Doc Sutton Jr. said the family is considering its options at this point, but he felt the picture would be clear within another week.
The Burke's Outlet store in Atmore received substantial water damage at the location it was leasing on Church Street, and the building was cleared of all its inventory just days after Ivan.
Burke's corporate parent Bradenton, Fla.-based Beall's Inc. was hit hard by Ivan, but company spokesman said Burke's is no leaving Atmore. Bill Webster, a spokesman for Burke's Outlets said it could be January before the store opened again.
"We have 16 or 17 stores that were damaged here in Florida. Several storms were hit by more than one hurricane," Webster said. "But we do intend to stay in Atmore."
The other side of the equation is the store owners who received relatively little damage, and were thankful for it.
The front stores of Edgar's Business Supplies and Country Junction look much like they did before Ivan. "Thankfully our roof held," said Eunice Edgar. Behind the store-front, however, water caused damage to their faming supplies, but Edgar said they plan to replace that stock and continue on. "Almost everything is waiting for insurance," Edgar said.
Ivan forced Elite Sporting Goods into moving to its new location on Main Street before it was planned to happen.
"We're operational," said Kathy Hawkins. "We're still taking customers, but it will be a few weeks before we have everything set up in the store the way we want it. We're still moving some things over."
One business still plans to open soon in Atmore, McElhaney's restaurant, located in the former Gerlach's location. The McElhaney's still plan to open the restaurant within a few weeks.
"I'm impressed with our local merchants," the Chamber's Mims said. "Every seems to have a positive attitude. This could be a positive thing for Atmore's businesses."
Kelley summed up the feeling of many business owners. "Atmore will be alright."