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Hit the Road With Renee: Louisiana Highlights Stories of Survival, Support

After wrapping up Day 4 of the Great American River Road Trip, the Independent We Stand team and I made our way to Greenville, Mississippi, before making our final stops in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and New Orleans.

When we arrived in Greenville, Mississippi, we went to check in to the Lofts at 517, which includes both luxury loft apartments and hotel suites. The Lofts at 517 are located in downtown Greenville in a historic Sears Building constructed in the 1940s.

After checking in to the hotel, we walked over to Downtown Grille to enjoy a drink together before heading to dinner. We went to Doe’s Eat Place, a restaurant that has been in the community since 1941, located in an old home and busting with timeless flavor. It has gained popularity among locals and lovers of tamales and steak around the world.

Once we had finished our dinner, we headed back to The Lofts at 517 to get some rest before our last leg of the Great American River Road Trip.

Day 5: Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana

Another early morning had the road trip crew ready to drive from Greenville, Mississippi, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Our first visit of the day was at Holmes Building Materials, where we met John and Matthew Holmes, the father-son team that runs the family-owned home improvement business.

Both John and Matthew told us about the company’s history, how they support their employees and what they did after the destructive flooding that occurred in the summer of 2016. Many of the employees at Holmes Building Supply were directly affected by the flood,  and many lost their homes in the floodwaters. But the support of their employer and fellow employees helped them find their footing even after a natural disaster.

After spending time with them and seeing their store up close and personal, we got back in the SUV and continued along the Mississippi River to our final destination along the Great American River Road Trip: New Orleans.

Our first visit was Mike’s Hardware and Supply. We met with Lee and Robert LaFleur, brothers and second-generation owners of the store. They shared their story from Hurricane Katrina and how the business helped hundreds of people in the aftermath of the storm. They also spoke about the power of being independent business owners and why they love what they do.

“Our father built this business in hopes that one day we would show an interest and want to take over, and we did,” Robert says. “I think he’s very proud. It’s enjoyable to be able to make decisions and call the shots without having to go through anyone else.”

After we ended our time at the store, we made our way to Angelo Brocato’s Original Italian Ice Cream Parlor to meet with Arthur Brocato, owner of the 113-year-old business. He spoke about temporarily closing the business after Hurricane Katrina floodwaters inundated his store with more than 5 feet of water. After being closed for 13 months, the business reopened in September 2006 thanks to support from the local community. Brocato says customers rallied around his family to get the ice cream parlor back in business, and the business continues to flourish.

Our next stop along the Great American River Road Trip was at Massey’s Professional Outfitters, a local business that offers clothing and outerwear. We met Mike Massey, owner of the business and founder of Locally, a website that connects brands to local businesses. The website shows shoppers where products and brands they want are in stock in their communities. He and his colleague Mark Strella spoke about the concept and how it brings brands and retailers together to drive commerce.

Once we ended our interviews, we made our way to the Alder Hotel, where we rested before heading home after a long week on the road with the Great American River Road Trip. We grabbed dinner near the hotel at Wayfare to celebrate our trip and reflect on the many great businesses and the hardworking, diligent and creative entrepreneurs we met along the way.

To read my final recap on the Great American River Road Trip adventure, and to see more behind-the-scenes images from the trip, stay tuned to Hardware Retailing‘s website. Photos from the entire trip are available on NRHA’s Instagram and an album will be on NRHA’s Facebook soon.

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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