BEAUMONT - It seems like Harvey touched all of us. Whether it be yourself, a family member or a close friend, there were very few left unaffected. Families have been displaced, thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed and millions of dollars are being spent on repairs. But how has the huge loss affected the spending of the everyman? The small business owner? The teacher?
“It’s been kind of difficult after the storm,” said Tyler Blount, owner of Neches Brewing Company. “Obviously people are putting their money in different places.”
Blount opened the Neches Brewing Company a little over a year ago. They were going to celebrate their one year anniversary of opening in September, then the storm hit. Business has been up and down since.
“We haven’t seen a decrease in sales, but I feel like sometimes it’s a little stagnant,” said Blount
Even though the brewery didn’t suffer any damage, being in the small business and service industry, Blount has seen this truly put others in a whole.
“Some of these employees, they need that steady income, coming in,” said Blount. “In most cases they need to go find other places to work. Yeah I know a couple business that have lost employees due to the storm.”
Businesses like Lumberton Floor Care and Interior, owned by Kelly Klodzinski, who not only lost the building that housed his business for nearly 10 years, but had one of his best employees not return. The workload has increased.
“14 hour day minimums, 7 days a week,” said Klodzinski, who has been in the flooring business for 34 years.
Not only have the hours increased, but the bills just to get back on his feet are piling up. Klodzinski spent his entire life savings just to become operational again.
“Fortunately I’m in the business of flooring, and interior that there is a lot of work, but I had to start from scratch,” said Klodzinski. “We had to buy a mobile home. Instantly pay cash for it. Get it delivered get it set up. All new computers, ink pens, pencils, I mean we literally began from dirt.”
The story is the same all across Southeast Texas. People starting over. Rebuilding with whatever they had saved up. It’s highlighted even more on the residential level. Homeowners not being able to get back in their homes, some for over a year. Like Stacie Hennigan, a librarian at Regina Howell Elementary, whose northwest forest home along with over two hundred others was unlivable after Harvey.
“When I come here to work, it’s very nice,” said Hennigan. “There are walls, there’s air conditioning, there is heat. You get busy. You are doing the things that you normally do. People are around you like, ‘Hey if there is anything that I can do?’ But there really isn’t anything they can do, because you’re waiting. A lot of people are stuck in a waiting mode.”
Henningan and her husband are now living in a camper behind their house, showering in a homemade outdoor shower. Money is tight, but the need to spend is still there. A CNBC report, stated that U.S. consumer spending posted its largest gain since 2009. Likely “due to households in Texas and Florida replacing flood-damaged motor vehicles,” and that “while the date reflected these effects it could not quantify the total impact of the storms on consumer spending and personal income.”
“Budgeting, we are not spending anything that we can’t, because we know we are going to need it to either rebuild or buy new,” said Hennigan.
So is there a silver lining in all of this? Something to hold onto during these tough times?
“My thing is, is just enjoy your family because a lot of things that I took for granted like my everyday drive home,” said Hennigan. “Listening to a CD in my car. Having my granddaughter with me. Tucking her in at night. So it’s not about the money. Even we get caught up in that rat race, it’s not about that. So for me, the thing that was put into perspective, even though my family has been pulled apart, and we’re not all right together, I feel closer to them because I realized that all the other stuff that I was worried about, wasn’t important.”
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