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Explosion affects small businesses on sales days

PORT NECHES — One of the biggest sales days of the year was a bust for the small businesses along Port Neches Avenue.

Lauren Rost, owner of Tootsie Toes children’s boutique at 1207 Port Neches Ave., had the back door of her shop blown off during the TPC Group explosion on Wednesday. Then came mandatory evacuation, which lasted into 10 a.m. Friday.

“Black Friday weekend 100% impacted me, my life and my children,” Rost said via phone, adding that the loss of the sales days equates to the loss of Christmas money for her children.

Rost’s husband died in August, and she has three small children. An older child, 20, put school on hold to help her with the business.

Ellen Warner, owner of the Yellow Rose at 1303 Port Neches Ave., lost two small windows but not the two large ones at her business. The new glass is on order, she said.

“What was interesting is that I was down here from about 2 a.m. to 11 a.m. (Wednesday) and everybody was out here helping each other,” Warner said.

While she may have lost some sales, she said the damage is fixable.

Warner stopped to talk to Chrissy Mercer, owner of Wren, 1224 Port Neches Ave. Mercer explained what the loss of shopping days means to a small business.

“We anticipated a big turnout for Black Friday weekend,” Mercer said. “Now, more than ever, Small Business Saturdays are more important to us.”

Mercer’s shop sells women’s and children’s clothing, home décor, vintage items, gifts and spirit items.

Black Friday is a time for businesses to bring in money as prices are dropped and customers flood in to stores. For the small business owner, this is a time to do more than break even — it allows owners to in turn purchase more inventory, pay bills and more.

“I’ve put as much in financially as I can,” Mercer said. “What we would have brought in today depicts not only money for home but the shop.”

Alicia Huber, one of the owners of The Avenue Coffee and Café, 1226 Port Neches Ave., walked over to where Mercer stood to chat. The two shops are separated by a wall, but the coffee shop lost its windows and surveillance video from the moment of impact is on the shop’s Facebook page.

“We lost our busiest days of revenue and Black Friday people,” Huber said. “But we didn’t lose any people. Revenue can be made later.”

Esther Macha, retired business owner, is moderator for the Historic Port Neches Avenue Facebook page where she posted a statement about the then temporarily closed businesses.

“All our avenue businesses are temporarily closed. Several buildings incurred damage, but that is not the reason. They are closed because they are all locally owned and put their family and employees safety first. As soon as things get “back to normal,” they are going to need your support more then ever. So come eat an ice cream, get your hair cut, drink some coffee, buy a gift, send some flowers, throw an axe and celebrate with a beer,” Macha said in the post.