In September it was Luling’s Catahoulas Restaurant and Bar, and now 2020 has closed out with three more small businesses permanently closing up shop: Destrehan’s Sweet Rolls, Luling’s Fatty Shack and Mr. Ronnie’s Famous Hot Donuts and Coffee in Boutte.
“The time has come to make this announcement officially that our little donut shop in Boutte has closed permanently,” Mr. Ronnie’s Facebook page announced in December. “Since covid we have fought and fought trying to make it work under the new normal. Through covid our customers continued to support us, but staffing the store became nearly impossible.”
Marty Bouquet, one of three partnering owners of the shop, said the store opened in March of 2019 and had one solid year of operation before the pandemic hit.
“Business in the beginning was amazing,” he said. “It was well received by the community. We had lines sometimes wrapped twice around the building. We never expected that little store to do almost $800,000 in the first year.”
Bouquet said although sales leveled off after the first six months of being open, business was still thriving in 2019. In the first quarter of 2020 business began to decline as news and fear of the pandemic spread, Bouquet said, adding it has been downhill ever since.
“We saw the sales just immediately dive,” he said. “We probably lost 60% of our revenue month to month in the first quarter of 2020.”
A brief closure of the store was followed by a shot at reopening, but Bouquet said it was fruitless.
“It was just a mess all the way around,” he said. “We could never turn it around.”
Mask mandate confusion and frustration, coupled with the challenges of finding people to work for sometimes less than they could make on unemployment, meant the business was forced to close.
“Covid was just a fight that you couldn’t fight that and everything else. We went from a labor pool of plenty to a labor pool of nothing,” he said. I wish the journey could have lasted longer, but I’m sure the other donut and coffee shops would love your business … and remember to always support local first. It makes a difference.”
Last month the owners of Sweet Rolls in Destrehan announced their shop’s closure.
“There’s just no easy way to say this … December 31st will be the store’s last day of business, possibly earlier if we run out of products before then,” the post stated. “We have given it our all, but unfortunately it’s just not enough. Reduced sales, rising expenses and ultimately all the effects of COVID-19 have brought us here. We have loved being a part of your lives for the last year and a half. We cherish the friendships made throughout this journey and appreciate you sharing your lives and families with us.”
Destrehan resident Tina Scanlon said she and her family loved going to Sweet Rolls in the afternoon after dinner for a quick treat.
“We loved the atmosphere, the people and their fresh ingredients” she said. “Not to mention the convenience of it being right here in the neighborhood.”
Montz resident Michelle Guidry agreed.
“I loved going to Sweet Rolls with my three kids for a treat,” she said. “The staff was always so friendly, and I’m sad to hear they are closing.”
Perry DiCarlo, manager of the Fatty Shack in Luling, said the last day of operation for his restaurant was Dec. 18.
“Sales have been quite low the last few months, and we actually closed for the month of October,” he said. “Our lease was up for renewal and although I feel an end is in sight with the virus, it has been too costly the last 8 months to continue staying open.”
The restaurant opened in 2014.
“We would like to thank all our Luling families who supported us the last few years, and also a huge thank you to the industries who have purchased lunches from us in the past,” he said. “We have met some true partners and hope to continue those relationships in the future.”
DiCarlo said small businesses, especially restaurants, have been affected by the pandemic.
“Hopefully the hospitality industry will bounce back, however new habits have been developed by families and businesses that will forever put a footprint on this industry,” he said.