La Grange businesses still recovering from Harvey get help from business adviser

Debris from Second Chance Emporium sits outside the flooded-out building on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2017. (KXAN/Chris Davis)
Debris from Second Chance Emporium sits outside the flooded-out building on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2017. (KXAN/Chris Davis)

LA GRANGE, Texas (KXAN) — Businesses in Fayette County are still struggling to reopen two months after Hurricane Harvey brought the worst flooding the city of La Grange has seen in more than a century.

Even those that didn’t flood or have direct damage as a result of the storm might see the effects for months or years to come, the city’s economic development office said. Tuesday an adviser with a small business support office in Central Texas was in La Grange to meet with hurting business owners.

“Never in a million years did I think that this would flood,” said Phillip Adamcik, owner of Adamcik Insurance. His office shares a small strip center with a few other businesses. They’re not far from the Colorado River, and when it crested following Harvey, the entire center was underwater.

More than six feet of water flooded the business Adamcik started a year and a half ago.

“That was a very tough time,” Adamcik said, “because then you’re wondering kind of what’s going to happen, where the money’s going to come from, who’s going to reach out to you.”

He had to replace everything from the carpet and furniture to the walls and his computer system. Donations helped him get back on his feet quickly; several of his neighbors in the strip center — including a hair salon, an embroidery shop and a tanning salon — are still in the rebuilding process or looking for new office space.

“It’s really starting over from scratch,” said Bill Thompson, an adviser with the Small Business Development Center at Texas State University. The SBDC is a combination of government, education and business that helps coordinate loans and provide advice to business owners around central Texas.

Thompson was in La Grange to meet with owners and drop by companies that were affected by Harvey.

“A lot of businesses, if they don’t get help in a hurry,” he said, “they may have to shut their doors.”

Harvey and the resulting floodwaters damaged about three dozen businesses, La Grange director of community and economic development Scott Byler said. But that only scratches the surface of what may be years-long impacts on the business community there.

Even those that didn’t receive damage directly can be hurt indirectly, Byler said, through changing customer habits after a disaster and a workforce that might have had to relocate after hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed.

“Those are areas that sometimes we don’t see because everybody’s so caught up in the initial impact of the disaster itself and what it does to the actual physical structures,” Byler said.

Thompson called it a “chain reaction” that can affect the tax base of the small town in the long run.

Although he was able to restart in the same place fairly quickly, Adamcik still felt some of the downside the La Grange business community may be feeling long-term. “The issue was the ability to earn income without being in the office,” he said.

As La Grange gradually rebuilds from the physical damage, the economic wounds will heal, too.

“It would be nice to get everybody back into how things were beforehand,” Adamcik said, “but I think it’s all going to be better than it was before.”

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