ROCKPORT, Texas — The sun beat down on Sandy Lichtenberger as she sorted through 40 years of collectibles and antiques in Rockport’s Heritage District.
“It’s amazing how some things survive and some don’t,” she said.
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports four years ago, Lictenberger and her husband, Cliff, moved from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and opened Sand & C Emporium on East Concho Street.
After years of doing traveling antique shows, the couple decided to follow their dream of opening a storefront in the coastal town. And though they rented a store near the town’s waterfront, they didn’t purchase insurance. It was out of their price-range.
A month after Hurricane Harvey, the Lichtenbergers plan to leave Rockport and salvage as much of their inventory as possible. The building will be demolished soon.
“We can’t do this again,” she said.
Rockport’s Heritage District, which includes South Austin Street and East Concho Street, was made up of a number of art galleries, antique and souvenir shops and a book store.
Winds higher than 130 mph hit Aransas County Aug. 25 and decimated parts of the coastal community. In some parts, like the Heritage District, it looked like Harvey picked and chose which buildings it pummeled.
At Gramma’s Attic on Austin Street, owner Dorothy Hardee will use the damage from the storm to re-imagine her 12-year-old antique business.
A corner of the store was inundated with rain when ceiling tiles fell in and the water rose a few inches on the floor. Fabrics, photo albums, wicker baskets or paper goods had to be thrown out, but much of the inventory is salvageable.
The plans are to clean everything, pack it up and put it in storage before the carpet is removed.
“This is (Hardee’s) baby; she’s a cancer survivor twice over,” said Peggy Growe, an interior designer who works at the shop. “We plan to reopen Nov. 1, but it will really depend on the landlords and how quickly it can be renovated.”
Growe said people plan vacations around trips to Gramma’s Attic.
No matter the damages, there was never a scenario where the shop would not reopen.
“With the grand reopening, it will be totally changed in its layout. There will be more vignettes and stations ranging from general store, retro, Tiffany’s, nautical and boutique,” Growe said. “(This area) is becoming more and more antiques — it’s what people want here.”
It’s Growe’s hope that Rockport’s business community supports the rebuilding and recovery of the Heritage District in a facade of “yesteryear.”
“This (area) is what I consider Rockport as,” she said.
The Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce was involved in damage recovery almost immediately after the storm passed. The chamber’s Facebook page was the only outlet to get information to evacuees for several days and weeks.
Now that utilities and electricity have been restored to the city and cleanup is continuing, a renewed focus has been put on locally-owned small businesses, said Sandy Jumper, director of tourism and events.
“We think most will reopen, but a lot of them can’t do anything until insurance comes through,” Jumper said. “There are some merchants that lost their home and their business, but they’re pulling themselves up by their bootstraps with cleanup.”
Jumper compared the area’s small businesses to palm trees.
“Like palm trees, they get beaten down and weathered. But many of them are able to shift with the winds,” she said. “Attitude is everything. It’s not easy or quick, but perseverance will make a difference.”
Within Rockport’s art community, there’s urgency to get back to some sense of normal.
The Wind Way Gallery, which is owned by nine Aransas County-based artists of varying styles, has partnered with the heavily-damaged Rockport Center for the Arts to take up a number of its weekly art classes.
The gallery had water inside, but it was quickly drained and the floor was dried. It reopened Sept. 20 and has already hosted some art classes for children.
“We want to dedicate two days a week to open studio to local artists and two days a week to Art Center classes that were already scheduled,” said June Ainsworth, gallery co-owner and artist. “We decided as a group to get it going because we knew this was much bigger than ourselves.”
Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, http://www.caller.com
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