Businesses emerge from the ashes of tragic 2020 pandemic blaze

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Workers with Patrick Painting put the finishing touches on the business fronts at the south end of Front Street. Photo by Times Staff

By Juanice Gray | Editor

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, so are several businesses along historic Front Street. A 5:30 a.m. emergency call April 30, 2020, of a blaze on the south end of Front Street, just after the onset of the Covid pandemic, added even more devastation to an already struggling retail area. The fire destroyed Mayeaux’s restaurant, the Soapery and All Tangled Up salon and heavily damaged several other businesses and adjacent town homes.

This article published in the Aug. 19, 2021, print edition
Natchitoches Wood

David James owns 10 Front Street properties and three on Touline Street. He said it’s been 16 months of work to clean, demolish and completely rebuild Mayeaux’s and other destroyed properties. In March, permits were issued with a valuation of $297,000 for the location that housed Mayeaux’s Steak House and one with a valuation of $242,972 was obtained for the one that housed the salon.

“It’s getting so close I can taste it,” James said of the reopenings.

While the Soapery and hair salon won’t return, restaurant owner Clay Mayeaux expanded to include the Soapery location, almost doubling his square footage. “It’s been built back better than before,” James said. “It’s something to see.”

Businesses get final touches of powerwashing and paint this week. Photo by Times Staff
From left, the fire that destroyed the Front Street businesses, Mayeauxs, All Tangled Up and the Soapery in April of 2020, windows that were boarded up as the interior of the buildings were demolished and cleared up, and today, April 8, a view through the spring painted front window of All Tangled Up showing workers beginning the rebuilding process. Photos by Brandi Harrington, Hannah Richardson

James said some businesses won’t be returning, but all 13 currently have tenants and some are on the cusp of reopening. He said the condos were also refurbished in the fire restoration and build out process.

The State Fire Marshal was scheduled to be on site Wednesday morning for a final inspection, the last step before seeing the doors open within the next week or two.