Downtown Revival

Kerri Cooke Friday, July 16, 2021 Comments Off on Downtown Revival
Downtown Revival

Life (And Fun) Is Returning To Downtown Lake Charles

By Kerri Cooke

Nearly two years after the city of Lake Charles and the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor’s Bureau began marketing the downtown area with #getdowntownlc, the slogan seems to be the rallying cry down-town businesses need after COVID-19 and Hurricanes Laura and Delta shuttered businesses left and right — leading to lost revenue and sometimes lost businesses.

The number of businesses that have exited the downtown area are starting to add up. Crystal’s bar had plans to move from its downtown location even before the hurricanes. The suite housing Mama Reta’s was slammed by Hurricane Laura, leading owner Reta Durgan to move her business to Lafayette. Luckily, she’s announced she will be coming back to Lake Charles, although in a new location. (Buffi’s Peauxboys is now operating out of Mama Reta’s previous location.) Boombox Frozen Pops and Ice Cream moved their endeavor to Country Club Road next to CC’s Coffee House. The Plaid Pig closed its doors for good. And who knows what will ever happen with the old Zephyr’s space.

The old Lake Charles courthouse still stands tall with its green dome near stately oak trees. The 1911 Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center recently opened its doors again. And the Calcasieu Marine National Bank’s beautiful doors with the lion-knockers on them have been rehinged. Tenants of Mueller’s Lofts have started moving back in. And Navarra’s has seen sales of jewelry increase in April and May of this year after the pandemic delayed engagement and wedding plans.

But large wounds from the 2020 hu-ricanes are still visible downtown. The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception still hasn’t replaced missing historic roof tiles; the Capital One tower seems to be decorated with more wood than glass; the Children’s Museum has announced that it won’t return to its downtown location; and Panorama Music House, the Charleston Bistro and 1910 are still in the process of hurricane recovery.

I spent a good five hours downtown on a recent Friday — checking out new developments, engaging with old ones and viewing the state of downtown recovery. As you follow in my footsteps through this story, I hope you take heart at the recovery downtown Lake Charles has made and go explore the area for yourself sometime soon.

Sweets and Treats

I started my day by stopping at Sweets and Treats because chocolate and I are in a special relationship. There were two women in line in front of me, both ordering tea cakes. One of the women turned to me and asked, “Have you ever had their tea cakes?” When I answered in the affirmative she declared, “They’ve got me traveling for their tea cakes!” When it was my turn to order, I reserved one of their famous chocolate chip cookies (still in the oven) and asked for two chocolate pecan clusters as I ob-served the framed Banners posters overhead. I was told my order would be ready by 1 pm. Four hours to wait…

Pujo St. Café

I continued south on Ryan Street and parked in the Pujo St. Café parking lot. The outer doors of the restaurant were open, but no maître d’ or server or, frankly, person was inside this part of the restaurant. I stood around confused for a minute because I half expected a worker to pop up from somewhere. When they didn’t, I checked to see if the inner doors were unlocked. “There are still serving breakfast, right?” I thought to myself.

When the inner door did open, I was greeted by a waiter and he confirmed that, yes, they were still serving breakfast. I was seated at a small table and was the sole patron in the restaurant. I ordered an orange juice and Pujo’s Breakfast Croissant (without the fries). I then asked the waiter if they were always this slow for breakfast. He informed me that was the case, except after the hurricane when few places were open. The restaurant had only started serving breakfast after the COVID-19 pandemic began. He assured me business would greatly improve for lunch.

While my food was cooking, I sipped my orange juice and admired the chandeliers and bronze-colored tiles on the ceiling. I like any décor that looks what I call “old world.” My croissant was ready in record time, oozing with melted cheese, warm with an egg and salty with bacon as topping. I took my first bite and my taste buds lit up. Egg yolk ran over the croissant, the bacon was crispy and the amount of cheese kept the croissant from tasting too eggy.


I quickly finished the amazing croissant while listening to two servers talk about the possibility of the owners of food trucks getting permission to station their trucks outside of the chemical plants. “They’d make tons of money, man!”

From The Sidewalk

I decided to leave my car in the Pujo Street Café parking lot and walk the downtown area on foot. I passed The Parlor House, a relatively new hair salon with many stylists. I’ve had my hair cut there before. The salon is a very modern, airy space with floor-length mirrors everywhere and soft lights. The service was high quality and the price reasonable. Next I passed Pure Press Juicery. I’ve not had the opportunity to patronize this business, but freshly squeezed juice is always a win in my book.

Next I passed Pure Press Juicery. I’ve not had the opportunity to patronize this business, but freshly squeezed juice is always a win in my book. It was still lightly raining as I continued down the streets. As we’ve dealt with a large number of rainy days lately, this was not a surprise. But I hoped the weather would clear up quickly and not drown me out.

It was still lightly raining as I continued down the streets. As we’ve dealt with a large number of rainy days lately, this was not a surprise. But I hoped the weather would clear up quickly and not drown me out.

I passed the former home of GiGi’s Downtown. There were two large sheets of lumber that created a door. One side was slightly ajar, and I could hear rain-water pouring into the building. I poked my head through the opening. The place still looked horrible. Parts of the ceiling beams hung down, a few white exercise machines were still in one corner and the floor was stained. The structure looked like a building that had been abandoned for years. It was sad.

I soon came to the suite that houses Gophyr, Lake Area Counseling and Cycles Life Solutions (a delivery app company, a counseling agency and a law firm.) The doors were locked and I couldn’t go in, so I did the next best thing. I peered through the windows (the blinds happened to be open). I didn’t see one individual. It was as if the building was deserted except for the lights, which were on.

One room in particular caught my attention. The room looked like it was the scene of an Agatha Christie murder mystery. There was a table covered with many items, all seemingly unrelated. There was a giant plastic container of cheese puffs, a bottle of vitamins, a fake sword which reminded me of Peter Pan, a lighter, a bottle of Windex, a box that said, “Belong to a better market,” various bags and other riffraff. There was also a mallet underneath the table, a receipt resting on the carpet and a sweatshirt folded over a rolling chair. What goes on in this room is a mystery to me but it definitely sparked my imagination.

1:1Six Nutrition

I kept walking north and stopped at the Karam Lofts where Ryan Dickerson recently opened 1:1Six Nutrition, a place that sells loaded teas and meal replace-ment shakes. The room is airy with an unimpeded view through the large win-dows of Erdace Apartments across the street. And in case you’re wondering, 1:1Six Nutrition is in the space Common Grounds coffee shop used to reside in (Common Grounds now has a new opportunity at the Lake Charles Regional Airport.)

Asked about his decision to open his business downtown, Dickerson said downtown is a “beautiful place, but it [doesn’t] have many grab and go places.” He wants to bring the health and wellness market to those who live and work downtown.

“We had a gym but now we don’t …” Those who work downtown don’t have a long enough lunch break to leave the area in search of a place to eat lunch, Dickerson said. 1:1Six Nutrition is in a location with “a lot of foot traffic” and is an opportunity for those downtown to grab a quick treat. Of course, many wellness buffs also like to start their mornings offwith a loaded tea or smoothie. “It sets the tone for the day,” Dickerson emphasized.


Dickerson also loves his downtown location because of the blend of new and historic architecture. The Karam Lofts, where the business is housed, is over 100 years old while the Erdace apartments across the street are new. 1:1Six Nutrition is one more business which shows downtown “does have something to offer.” The 1:1Six Nutrition logo portrays the skyline of downtown as an homage to the area.

After I left 1:1Six Nutrition, I continued north on Ryan to check out the long-vacant Blue Dog Café. (It had recently stopped raining.) Since the windows were blacked out I couldn’t see if there was any damage inside, but the door had some shattered glass and some of the windows had cracks. And, of course, the blue material that covered the frame of the awnings was ripped and just hanging. Frankly, the old Blue Dog building is an eyesore for downtown Lake Charles and is in major need of some repairs and a good tenant.

Stellar Beans And The Yoga Center

Carl and Chelsea Boudreaux have owned Stellar Beans for the last three and a half years. The coffee shop is a staple in the downtown scene. As I talked to Carl Boudreaux, an older gentleman with a long white beard named “Mitch,” also known as “guitar man,” added a soothing ambiance to the packed coffee shop as he played an acoustic guitar.

Boudreaux said that during the COVID shutdown, they remodeled the shop. “We redid the barista station. Now we have an air roaster and roast our own coffee daily.” They even started selling their own roasted coffee bean line and added beignets to the menu.

And the Stellar Beans sign over the barista station was redone by itsnotagoodsign. Boudreaux said, “me and my wife are big Star Wars fans. Also Star Trek and Blade Runner. The sign is a combination of all three.” With Stellar Beans in Star Wars font and a spaceship flying through the blue void, you can easily be taken to “a galaxy far far away” while admiring the painting. Stellar Beans also added a small outdoor stage out front for a bit of COVID-friendly entertainment.


When Hurricane Laura hit, Stellar Beans stepped up to the challenge and opened their CommUNITY pantry, where locals in need could come pick up “air conditioners, mattresses, food and drinks.” The pantry was very successful and one of the big feel-good stories during that dark time. Hurricane Delta shut down the pantry, but it reopened shortly afterwards.

As far as damage goes, Stellar Beans’ front right window was blown out and the front door was damaged, but the business survived without the devastating damage that hit the suite next door.

Chelsea Boudreaux owns the Yoga Center, the neighbor to Stellar Beans, and during Hurricane Laura, all the windows were blown in. Repairs are still ongoing, but the Yoga Center hopes to reopen soon. (The Yoga Center has been closed for over a year, since March 2020.)

Back to Stellar Beans. Carl Boudreaux said that business is pretty much back to pre-COVID levels. And some days business is even better than before COVID. Stellar Beans plans to start putting on weekend events, “one time a month,” featuring a musician or comedian as they serve “adult coffee.” Boudreaux said they are tentatively naming the event Stellar at Night.

If you are interested in art, one of the best places to view local talent is at Stellar Beans. They feature “three to four artists each month.” The art ranges from wood art to ceramics to paintings to folded paper art. Boudreaux said, “You don’t have to be a well-known artist to be here.”

So if you are interested in buying or viewing some local art, or simply want a good cup of joe, Stellar Beans is a great place to visit.

Iron Shop Provisions

As I made my way down Broad Street to Iron Shop Provisions, I had to walk into the road around the barrier surrounding Panorama Music House. I looked up, and saw that several workers were busy rebuilding the upper floor of the restaurant where there will be a rooftop patio bar. The owners hope to have the restaurant open for Chuckfest.

Crossfit across the street looked better than Gigi’s but still not in what I would call workout-friendly condition.

Once I arrived at Iron Shop Provisions, possibly known by some as “the business that used to have the Porsche in the window,” I entered to see a layout totally different than when I visited at least three years before. Back then, the store’s specialty seemed to be mainly leather goods. While there are still leather goods, men’s clothing now fills the store.

From denim jackets to button-ups with unique prints, Iron Shop Provisions seems to fill a gap in the Lake Charles market — that of a good men’s clothing store. Sure, there’s Dillard’s. But Iron Shop Provisions serves up something a little different — clothing that can make a man stand out rather than blend in.

Recent Relics

I made the trek across the street to Recent Relics to see what their merchandise looked like. There are few things women like more than searching for a treasure. The antique store was filled with pretty teacups, innumerable broochesand a good collection of old cameras. There were some big furniture items, but the majority of the store displayed small items. I saw a large book on French Impressionism. There were also comic books and a handful of DVDs. Particularly of interest was some Romanesque statuary. I ended up buying two white “Cupid” mantle hangers. Why? I have no idea. They just hit my fancy.

Fred Hannie’s fishing flies are also for sale at Recent Relics. (You may remember I previously did a story on how he makes these flies.) They are realistic works of art and well worth more than just a glancing notice.

The store also had a collection of old photographs, and I spent a good many minutes perusing them. The photos looked to be from the 1800s based on the style of dress of the women and their hairstyles. The photos seemed to show that our ancestors’ lives were not as different from our own as we might think. I saw many lighthearted poses in the photos. Women were smiling, lying down on lawns next to each other and making funny faces at their husbands. When I got to the wedding photos, though, I saw something totally different.

The wedding portraits looked a lot more Victorian in style, with all the repressed emotion you can imagine. The couples stood stiff and unsmiling in front of the camera. Three photos in particular stood out to me. The first one consisted of a tall man with a spaghetti mustache. It was the woman who caught my attention, though. She wore a cross necklace over her wedding dress. The wedding dress looked to be at the height of fashion for the time, and she had a floor-length veil. However, she held her bouquet upside down and looked like she had just signed her death warrant. I lightly laughed and decided to purchase it for one of my friends. I won-der what happened to that couple…

A second photo showed a couple holding hands in a way that suggested the completion of a business transaction. And in a third photo both the man and woman had a look of true terror in their eyes. These photographs were the highlight of my visit. By the time I left Recent Relics, I had also added a green vase to join the rest of the items I intended to buy.

Corner Market

The Corner Market opened at 11 am. The song “Bourbon Street Parade” greeted me as I walked in the door. The store is full of nostalgic items, with a rocking pony in the front window, a South Park pinball machine in the back and an old gas tank in the middle. Also, Boombox Frozen Pops are for sale.

If you are looking for wine, it’s in the back. It you are looking for beer, they have plenty of it in the coolers. And if you just need some toilet paper or a gallon of milk, they have that too.


What I liked most about the Corner Market was the local art pieces in the front of the store. I was temporarily distracted by some vintage estate jewelry for sale, and then took in the knickknacks that grace the front of the store. A bottle of whipped soap was particularly interesting to me. There was a wide variety of dog collars for sale. And there were plenty of handmade aprons to choose from.

The Corner Market recently began selling plate lunches three days a week from 11 am to 3 pm. On Tuesday, the meal is the chef’s choice (think chicken alfredo or jambalaya). Wednesdays are chili days, and Thursdays are for pulled pork.

The Corner Market is a jack-of-all-trades store, and as such it is a necessary stop when venturing downtown.


You might remember PaperSmith as being located on Ernest Street near Prien Lake Mall. But the paper goods store made a move in January of last year to their current location in a suite on Broad Street.

As soon as you walk into PaperSmith you are greeted with a soothing smell. The smell is undefinable because it’s a combination of all the candle scents in the store. But the smell somehow works.

Sara Smith said she moved her business downtown because she “lives down-town and loves downtown” and because she wanted to “downsize.” She added, “a spot became available and it checked all the boxes.”

Unfortunately, Smith’s move coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a store that sells invitations for weddings and Mardi Gras (something that didn’t happen this year either), business has been tough. Smith said, “Business is just beginning to come back.”

Smith doesn’t just sell paper goods. She also has a few small art pieces for sale. And the day I visited, she had just received approval from the state of Louisiana for her new candle company — Lark Candle Company.

The store has sold candles before. But Smith said suppliers were not reliable with delivery at an acceptable price point, so she decided to pour her own candles. She added there is a glass shortage, which makes things a little more difficult. But she’s doing what she can. And in a move to be sustainable, Smith uses recycled Indian sari silk to create bows around her candles. Personally, I find this touch gives her candles an interesting personality.

Lark Candle Company offers candles in a variety of scents. They are all light smells and don’t overburden the olfactory system. I didn’t smell one candle I didn’t like. Smith said the loss of the festivals over the last year really hurt business, but the recent Artwalk in May was “hugely successful” for her and she is “looking forward to Chuckfest.”

“I am very optimistic and hopeful and look forward to better days ahead.”

Olive + Indigo

Olive + Indigo is a creative studio founded by Lauren Miller and Suzanne Johnson.

When I entered the bright white space, Miller greeted me with a friendly smile. She said Olive + Indigo has “popped around in a few different spaces in collaboration with other friends,” but that the business moved into its current space in June, 2020. The space, Miller said, is ideal because it’s on the “beaten path” downtown. And with all the festi-vals downtown, the location seemed like a good one to lure customers. Artwalk was also good for sales for Olive + Indigo.

The walls of the boutique are decorated with gold-filled and gemstone jewelry for sale. Miller said she likes to “keep things simple and easy to wear.”

There were tortoiseshell rings on a table and handpainted wine glasses on a shelf. I tried on a pair of paperclip-like earrings with two links, but something wasn’t quite right. Then I saw that there was also one with three links and told Miller, “Oh, I didn’t know you have a longer one.” I tried the longer ones on, and she told me, “Yeah, the shorter ones I think of as kind of everyday wear, and the longer ones are a bit more glamorous.” Needless to say, I purchased the three-link earrings.

There are also dried lavender bouquets. Miller noted that lavender is “one of our favorite fragrances.” The scent is even used in their candles. And near the checkout there’s a container of Los Poblanos lavender hand sanitizer. Miller explained that she and her partner learned that Los Poblanos has their own lavender farm in New Mexico. They couldn’t resist carrying their products, which include lotions and body wash, as well.

In a small room behind the main en-trance, there’s a small space for clothing. The vibe in this room is soft and bohemian. Warm bulb string lights are the only means of light in the room. There’s a boho rug on the floor. And there’s a simple tee paired with some colorful slides you might expect to see at Coachella. Miller explained the lighting in the small room is meant to be a stark contrast from the main room that she said is filled with bright sunlight when it isn’t cloudy.

Bayou Blend Apparel

Bayou Blend Apparel was closed every time I passed by, but the storefront looked inviting with a wave mural on the wall, a surfboard as a wall accent and an Aztec pattern rug. The clothing line, which specializes in tees, launched three years ago and is geared towards bringing awareness to autism. When Kaysie Bolton’s son was diagnosed with the disorder, she was inspired to make “sensory friendly” t-shirts. The boutique just opened recently; orders can also be made online.

Bespoke Hat Shop And Salon Lindsay

As I made my way to the Bespoke Hat Co., I was approached by a guy selling banana bread for what he claimed was an addiction rehabilitation center in Houston. He handed me a card, but walked on when I said I didn’t have any cash on me. (In true millennial style, I rarely carry physical dollars.) But I did wonder why someone would be in Lake Charles trying to sell banana bread rather than in Houston where this center is supposed to be located.

I continued on to Bespoke, which is part hat shop and part salon, with Salon Lindsay in the back half of the room. There was a variety of hats, including Stetsons. Bandanas, tees and jewelry were also on display. I quickly looked around, all the while trying not to disturb the enjoyment of the woman having her hair touched up in the salon chair.

I then headed west on Broad, passing Barber’s on Broad, where a man was brushing down a suede boot. Then, glancing fondly at Cotten’s Downtown, I headed back south down Ryan street.


If you’ve been downtown in the last few months, you could hardly fail to have noticed the guy in the hot dog suit who stands, or rather dances, on the corner advertising Botsky’s. He always looks like he’s having the best time, which is a departure from the demeanor seen on most other people donning costumes and advertising on the side of a road. I knew there was a scoop here, so I went into Botsky’s to find it. I was informed the employee was not in, so I left my business card. He called me back later that day, and I gleefully realized my instinct hadn’t been wrong. the hotdog suit, and it came about by a few twists and turns of fate.


Turgeon had been studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As the shutdown extended from two weeks to two months and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts decided to hold classes exclusively online, Turgeon decided he didn’t want to pay for on-line classes. He knew a theater professor at McNeese and transferred. While the move was made due to extenuating circumstances, Turgeon confessed, “I do miss New York … every day.”

When his Botsky’s family learned he was an actor who studied singing and dancing, they had the idea to stick him in the hot dog suit. Turgeon said when his manager was contacted, he said no. But Turgeon said yes because it “sounded like fun.” Turgeon donned the suit and was dubbed “Frankie.”

When asked if people stop and talk to him on the street, Turgeon admitted a few take the time and “it’s nice to talk to them.” “When I’m in the hot dog suit, I’m this overexuberant, erratic character. It’s easy to talk because it’s not me.” Turgeon said sometimes he even suits up on his days off because it’s something to do and “a great time waster.”

As far as business goes at Botsky’s, Frankie does seem to increase business.

 The restaurant can be deserted, but after two hours of Turgeon working his magic as Frankie, the restaurant will often fill up.

Villa Harlequin

Having somehow never visited Villa Harlequin yet, I decided to have lunch at this Italian restaurant. I was seated at a small table next to a picture of cherries on my right.

I was asked if I wanted anything to drink other than water. I replied that I did not. Let me tell you, even the water is impressive at Villa Harlequin. Many restaurants serve water that you can tell has not even been filtered. But the water at Villa Harlequin was pristine and refreshing. It was like glacier water compared to chlorinated city water.

While I was waiting for my server, I looked around the restaurant and my eyes settled on a chalkboard near the door which read, “Novinophobia — The fear of running out of wine. P.S. WE NEVER RUN OUT.” It was something I could very well believe as there were wines secreted all over the restaurant in recesses created with deep brown wood.

I ordered the lasagna, which also came with a spring salad. The salad was even more impressive than the water because it was composed of spring mix rather than iceberg lettuce, the nutrient-deficient and cheaper alternative you see so often. I had requested their Italian vinaigrette dressing and it was love at first taste. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a salad dressing so much. My waitress admitted that when she’s trying to get through her shift, she sometimes snacks on a few croutons dipped in the Italian vinaigrette.

A few men were seated at a table close by and one of the men asked the waiter for something that wasn’t on the menu. The waiter said he would check to see if the chef could make it. He disappeared to the kitchen, and when he came back, he assured the man the chef would try their best to make it according to his specifications. Talk about customer service. My lasagna finally arrived. It was covered with lots of gooey, melted cheese. I dug in, and the portion ended up being the perfect amount of food for me. (I’m usually the person who needs a to-go box.) I didn’t necessarily find the lasagna special, but it was good. Overall, lunching at The Villa Harlequin was a great experience.

Alexander Art Studio

Clouds were starting to build again. And now that I had eaten lunch I slackened my pace a bit. Unfortunately, I saw that the businesses next to the Villa Harlequin, including Salon Mixx, were still shuttered due to hurricane damage. I crossed Ryan Street and en-tered Alexander Art Studio. Candace Alexander’s business had been hit hard by COVID because she makes much of her income through festivals. And, as we know, festivals were canceled. And then came Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

If you were around after Hurricane Laura, you will remember that the art studio was heavily damaged. Alexander said all the windows were blown out and “a quarter of the building outside” was damaged.

There was glass all over the studio and mixed in amongst jewelry that had blown onto the floor. Alexander said paintings were everywhere. One artwork ended up in the parking lot and another near Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp.

Alexander came back after Hurricane Laura and spent “two weeks walking around saying, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God’ over and over because s— was every-where.” She was at a loss as to what to do.


But she took the opportunity to create a few hurricane pieces, one of which is displayed on the open door of her shop. Alexander said sales of those items “made up for the hurricanes and COVID.” And, surprisingly, for a year so fraught with tragedy, Alexander said, “2020 was the best year of my life for business.” Alexander also cited the recent Artwalk and a festival in Shreveport as aiding her in breaking other personal best sales records.

With a clientele that consists of adults, Alexander said she has considered in what ways she might give back to the community. She said she wants to do things “geared toward youth” and “inspire kids” to get involved in the art world.

From The Sidewalk

I walked back north up Ryan Street and passed the suites opposite the Corner Market, Salon Lindsay, etc. This section of real estate was a mixture of empty space and hurricane damaged suites. The old Zephyr’s building is sitting tenantless. And the only currently operating businesses on this side of the road are Lindsey Janies Photography and a law firm. Two suites, 700 and 720 Ryan Street, are available for rent, while Texas Furniture still has boarded up windows. Having seen all there was to see, I headed back to my car and drove to Sweet and Treats to pick up my snacks, which were sweet and savory.

Vic’s Shoe Shine

Parlor-Repair After I left Sweets and Treats, I visited Mr. Vic at Vic’s Shoe Shine Parlor-Repair. Mr. Vic was wearing an LSU T-shirt and was sitting behind a bucket of soapy water with a brush in one hand and a shoe in the other. He said he began shining shoes when he was eight at the shop of Roger Braxton on Enterprise Boulevard and has never stopped.

He says he’s worked downtown for a long time and it’s a “good location.” He began shining shoes for a living at the Majestic Barber Shop, which was at the old City Hall, he said. He then started his own location on Pujo Street. But when work on Pujo Street Café started, he moved to his current location on Ryan Street, where he has resided for 25 years.

Shining shoes used to be a hot business in Lake Charles. In his younger years, Mr. Vic said, there were a lot of soldiers in the area because there was an air base open and soldiers. came in from Fort Polk. Soldiers and police officers made up a lot of his clientele at that time. Mr. Vic’s business decreased over the past year, but business is gaining steam. “I like what I do. I’ve been doing it a long time. I’ve built up a good clientele,” Mr. Vic said. “It’s a dying art. I’m trying to get my grandkids to do it.” Even though his grandkids don’t seem to be interested, he “hold[s] hope one day one will take it up.” When I asked Mr. Vic how long he plans to keep on shining shoes, he said, “I’m 79. I intend to do it as long as my health holds up … You just have to be determined.”

Cedar Chest Antiques

The last stop of the day was Cedar Chest Antiques. I parked in the parking lot on the side of the building and noticed some graffiti on the stark white wall. It said, “Officer friendly tell it to the judge.” I had no idea what that meant. But social media came to my rescue, and a friend told me the words were lyrics from a recent song by Citizen Cope. Mystery solved.


I entered the building and the smell of history entered my nose. What’s the smell of history, you ask? It’s the odor you experience in every authentic antique shop.

Vintage children’s toys, including Raggedy Ann and a drag-around Snoopy were for sale. I saw a baby’s stroller in that elegant antique style from perhaps a century ago. There were a scattering of books, an Elvis doll commemorating his single “Jailhouse Rock” and an old phone booth for sale. One of the higher priced items was a folk art painting by Louisiana-based artist Alvin Baptiste. If you want a pair of decorative salt and pepper shakers, Cedar Chest has quite a collection. And a vintage clothing buff might even find something special on a handful of racks. I considered getting a Snow White mug with the slogan, “Even in the morning I’m still the fairest one of all.” But I restrained myself, which was quite impressive because I am a mug collector.

Cedar Chest is also home to Steve Belcher’s Album Addict. Album Addict has moved into a new space since I last visited. But there are just as many records as ever. And the nearby walls are decorated with prints of David Bowie, the Beatles, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac and even Billie Eilish. The wall art is for sale as is a good amount of graphic tees.

Downtown Outlook

As the saying goes, “There’s no-where to go but up.” This phrase applies to downtown Lake Charles as hurricane damage is fixed, events such as Artwalk, Downtown at Sundown, Live at the Lakefront and Chuckfest (Dave Evans hopes the festival will be “just as good if not better than 2019’s”) return after a hiatus, and businesses get back on their feet. Downtown won’t resemble what it looked like before 2020. But with dedication and hard work, it will look better.

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