When 55-year-old Catherine Scott-Isaac and her three-year-old granddaughter died in a house fire in Killona in mid-December, it was a tremendous blow to the community.
Scott-Isaac was the longtime owner of Scottís Grocery, located next to her home. It was the only store in Killona, which has a population of roughly 800.
According to U.S. Census data, Killona is per capita the most improverished community in the parish with about 41 percent of its residents living below the poverty line and an income of only about $7,500 per person. At the time of his motherís death, Brandon Isaac said the family would reopen the store even if it was just for the good of the community.
"She dedicated her life to that store and dedicated her life to the community. Thatís how Iíd like for her to be remembered," Isaac said. "A lot of people knew her."
Isaac said at the time it was likely that either he or his extended family will keep the store open.
"Weíve got family between my cousins and my siblings," Isaac said. "The community needs it if we donít."
Now Brandon and his sister, Shunta, the mother of the girl who also died in the fire, have reopened the store.
Shunta said Scottís Grocery was closed for nearly a month while the family made arrangements and recovered from the tragedy.
"We tried to not take too much time off because we are the only store here and a lot of people have needs and they canít go all the way to Hahnville. We try to help them out," Shunta said.
While Scottís Grocery was closed, numerous area residents asked when it would reopen.
"The store is really important to this community," Shunta said. "With everything happening and everybody coming together, that really meant a lot to us and this store is kind of what moves the community together."
Scottís Grocery has been in business for more than 20 years since Scott-Isaac took over the building from her mother, who ran a candy store out of it until the late 90s.
Shunta, who attended Jackson State on a volleyball scholarship and graduated with a business management degree, said she and Brandon are now trying to put their own spin on the store just like their mother did when she took it over.
"I want to be able to have a lot of more food in here, fresh vegetables, a deli area and hot food as well," Shunta said. "Thatís our first thing - we want to get hot food in here because there are a lot of people that come in here hungry."
For now though, the store only has a small stock of groceries, including a selection of canned foods in addition to loaves of bread and half gallons of milk.
Even though they are the only store in the area that carries groceries, their biggest sellers are not food items.
"Our biggest sellers are really the tobacco and liquor and thatís why we are trying to change. I donít want that to be our biggest seller," Shunta said. "Itís good for business, but whatís going around me is not."
Under criteria developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Killona is considered a food desert.
According to the USDA, a food desert is a census area with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher or where a median family income is less than 80 percent of the median family income for a state or metro area. In addition, the nearest supermarket to Killona is Majoriaís in Boutte, which is over 11 miles away.
Second Harvest Food Bank currently runs a program supplying food to pantries in Des Allemands, St. Rose and New Sarpy, but have yet to reach out to the Killona area.
"We are looking for the right partners in St. Charles Parish," Natalie Jayroe, president and CEO of Second Harvest said.
Jayroe said they are currently trying to get a mobile food truck set up for the Killona area.
"We will put fruits and vegetables on our truck and distribute it to those parts of the parish that need it," she said.
In the meantime, residents without means of transportation have to rely on Scottís Grocery.
In the past, Shunta said her mother tried to introduce healthier foods to the community, but she did not have enough people purchase them.
"My mama, when she was first in here, she had a lot of things. Some things didnít sell, so she downsized a lot," she said. "So we are just trying to get inventory up and put some healthy food as well, like vegetables."
Shunta said she would like to be able to help the community by providing better foods, but it will only work if they sell.
"I understand that we are high in obesity. Trying to have healthy foods here as well would be good especially with people in this community," Shunta said. "It would help."