Community reaches out to family after plant explosion
Empty booth set up at market to collect donations
Warren and Sandra Smith, who have been a fixture at the West Bank German Coast Farmers’ Market for several years, have gotten letters and calls of support from patrons after an explosion destroyed their Smith Creamery plant.
But Warren said he and his wife’s lives were changed forever when their 5,000-square-foot building in Mount Hermon exploded because of a leaking propane tank. The shutdown in operation means the Smiths have been playing a waiting game instead of traveling around the area to peddle their milk products.
“We are just waiting on insurance and we haven’t been able to cleanup anything,” Warren said. “It will probably be over a year before we get the building back…I just don’t know. What I do know is that the Lord was looking out because no one got hurt in the blast.”
The Smiths, who have been in the dairy business for more than 40 years, are one of the few family-owned and operated dairies in the state. While their tasty milk products are market favorites, the Smiths also made a lot of friends due to their jovial personalities.
Ann Montgomery, vice president of the German Coast Famers’ Market, said she and the market’s patrons can’t wait for the Smiths to come back.
“The Smiths are badly missed and we are anxious for their return,” she said. “The customers constantly ask for them.”
In fact, the Wednesday market, which is located in the St. Charles Plaza parking lot in Luling, has set up a table at the Smiths’ usual spot with a picture of the couple and an explanation of what happened to their business. Donations are also being collected.
But while the Smiths have been absent from various farmers’ markets around the area, Kleinpeter Dairy has stepped up to give them a little breathing room.
“We had Kleinpeter offer to buy milk to get us back into market,” Warren said. “They’re bottling milk and distributing it. They didn’t have to do what they’re doing.”
Under the agreement, Kleinpeter Farms Dairy will package and distribute Smith Creamery’s whole milk, fat-free milk, half and half, and heavy cream.
Not only is Kleinpeter Farms Dairy packaging and distributing Smith’s milk, but the company is helping them get its milk into more stores. Before the explosion, 50 stores in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette carried Smith Creamery products. That number included a dozen stores in the Rouses Supermarket chain. Smith says all 50 original stores will carry Smith milk products, as will all 34 Rouses stores in Louisiana.
Warren said that the calls, cards and emails from the public have also helped keep Smith Creamery going.
“We’ve made a lot of friends at the markets and a lot of people who we know just their faces. But we have made a good bond with them and they have been super good to us by calling, sending cards and emails,” Warren said. “There are so many good people…I just can’t really tell you how it really feels, but it just feels so good.”
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