GRANGEVILLE — Residents of southwestern St. Helena Parish are mourning a memorabilia-filled mercantile built in the 19th century. Fire destroyed the Powers Store late Monday.
“Grangeville is going to miss it, because this was just a landmark,” said Ramona Powers, 84, who owned and ran the store with her husband Frank until 2007.
Gravel pit miners and lumbermen were regulars at the 122-year-old store, which in recent years added a restaurant and bar. Generations ago, some laborers charged meals through the week, settling their tabs and picking up household goods when paydays rolled around.
“We were like the bank for them,” said the Powerses' daughter Cherel Powers Kennedy, 64, who owned the store with her sister. “That’s why she kept children’s clothes, men’s clothes, women’s clothes, hardware, everything they needed.”
Firefighters were called about 10:35 p.m. Monday, St. Helena Parish Fire District No. 4 Chief Brad Graves said, but the wooden building was already engulfed in flames. Crews from three fire departments succeeded in keeping the fire from spreading to Powerses’ home next door.
“The big thing was to make sure nothing got to the house,” Graves said.
Foul play is not suspected.
Kennedy said her parents worked very hard running the store, which stood at the intersection of La. 63 and La. 37 near the Amite River 18 miles north of Denham Springs.
“They opened at 6 in the morning, and they closed it at 10 o'clock at night for years,” Kennedy said.
The Powers family had owned the store continually since it was built in 1896, family members said. They began leasing it to private operators when Frank Powers got sick in 2007. The store most recently included a restaurant and bar.
Kennedy said the store will likely not be rebuilt.
Until the fire, the Powers Store remained a vibrant place for people living and working in the area, including the local gravel pit workers, Graves said.
“Usually at lunch time the parking lot is packed,” Graves said. “Now I don’t know what they’re going to do, I guess go to the truck stop a little farther south. It is going to really sting not having it there.”
Suzanne Hornsby Hobgood was among several people who stopped by Tuesday to extend condolences. She said she remembered buying candy from Frank and Ramona Powers when she was a kid. As an adult, she brought her family to do the same.
“I’d come out here and bring my children. And now I’ve been bringing my grandchildren,” she said.
Hobgood said the store was filled with history, including an antique cash register, deer mounts from hunting trips and old photographs.
“It told a story on every wall,” she said.
Powers said the store began when Grangeville was a “thriving little community” with a railroad station and a cotton gin.
“Back then in the country, you sold everything,” Powers said. “If you needed it, Powers would have it.”