As Bladen County enters into its second week after Hurricane Matthew’s devastation, area businesses are continuing to take stock, so to speak — some are pleased, and some are not.
In Bladenboro, separated by only one block, are the Medicine Shoppe and Bladenboro Hardware.
“It’s quite a mess here,” said Medicine Shoppe owner Rebecca Hester. “The whole building — the walls, the carpet, everything — has to be completely redone.”
The downtown section of Bladenboro saw water several feet deep, and dozens of residents took to the area shelter at West Bladen High. The dire condition, however, didn’t stop commerce. Hester said her store has been open every day since the storm, in part because they put some of the drugs in bins and took them to the attic to avoid flood waters.
“We were open,” Hester said. “We’ve been in the dark, using paper and pen, and only taking cash transactions, but we’ve been open and serving our customers.”
“It’s going to take us about a month to recover,” she conjectured.
One block down, at Bladenboro Hardware, the cash registers kept dinging. Cleaning supplies, replacement batteries, chainsaws, and machine fluid are flying off the shelves.
“People are just trying to get stuff back up and running,” said Bladenboro Hardware’s Rufus Duckworth. “We were fortunate to have just gotten a truck in from our distributor last week.”
Duckworth, who is also mayor of Bladenboro, added, “We were lucky here. Other places in Bladenboro — the Medicine Shoppe, Diamond Dave’s, First Citizens — are just devastated.”
Sunday morning following the storm, Food Lion in Elizabethtown was already up and running. One of the places, if not the only place, in town with power, folks were lined from wall to wall to stock up on non-perishable items.
“I’ve never seen it like this,” cashier Lindsey Holmes said on Sunday. “I’ve been here for five years, and even the day before Thanksgiving isn’t this bad.”
For other businesses, things are beginning to return to normal.
“It’s hard to keep milk and bread on the shelves,” said Walmart manager Justin Martinez, “but we didn’t lose much compared to where we were last year.”
Elizabethtown’s businesses’ main problem was loss of power and its accompanying concerns (loss of food and income from days lost), but elsewhere, such as Bladenboro and White Oak, the cleanup process from water damage continues.
“We had some water run in the building, but we were able to clean up and open back up on Wednesday,” said Avery Rising, owner of Cain’s Grill in White Oak. “We were very fortunate.”
Rising, Martinez, Duckworth and Hester all expressed gratitude that things weren’t worse.
“I’ll say this one thing about Bladenboro,” said Duckworth. “When this town needs to come together, it does. Republicans, Democrats, these lives matter, those lives matter — all that went away, and it’s been remarkable to see people come together.”
Attempts to reach White Lake Town Hall to ascertain information about area businesses were unsuccessful.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.