Theatre Antiques co-owner Al Bye shares how he got the store back on its feet less than three months after the August 2016 floods

How long have you been at Denham Springs Antique Village district?

Our business is co-owned by the Watts and Bye families. We started renting a booth in 1996, and then the ladies who owned it decided to retire, so we’ve had the building since 1998. We have 10 dealers with us, and all but two are back from the flood.

What happened on the day of the flood?

Our building was built in 1926 and, to our knowledge, it had never flooded. We really didn’t think we’d get much water, but me and my brother took 12 sandbags by at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The water was already at my knees. We were just shocked. It came up so fast. It caught us all off guard. We thought we’d prevent damage, but it was just impossible. We couldn’t do it.

What kind of damage did the flood do?

Only 40 percent of the theater was under water. We had 4 feet of water, and there was 7 feet of water by the stage. We had to throw out almost all our inventory. We sell furniture from Europe, primarily armoires from England. All the furniture had to go. Our shop is also known for iron tools. We had to grab as much as we could before the rust set in. It was sad, but we just had to put it out of our minds.

How long did it take you to get your business reopened?

We were back up and running by Nov. 1. Most people couldn’t believe we turned the building over that quickly. Folks back and shopping with us. A lot of people whose homes flooded are looking to replace what they lost.

What did you have to do to get your business ready to reopen that quickly?

It was a challenge, to say the least. We worked six days a week, daylight to dusk, for 10 weeks. We had to gut everything, rewire and reinsulate. We had to rebuild everything. Family and friends from all over came to help us. Nobody was insured for this. We used personal loans to rebuild. That was much faster than going through the government. We just said, “Let’s not wait. Let’s move forward.”

How did you replace the inventory you lost?

It was easier to restore [the building] than to restock [inventory]. It will take years to catch up. Regular containers come in from auctions from overseas, and we’ll know where they’re coming in. We have to dig and hunt. Almost everything we have is from out of state. We go to Kansas City, Missouri, to hit farm auctions for tools. That’s where a lot of the costs are—going to other states. America’s not that old, and most of the furniture is in people’s homes and not moving around much, so the furniture from Europe is desirable here.


Bye, who is also president of Denham Springs Antique Market Association, shares his tips for antique shopping

How can you be sure what you’re buying is an authentic antique?

With furniture, open a drawer if it’s got one. Does it look new? Pull it away from the wall and look at the back. Old furniture has a slatted back. [Antique furniture is] also good, heavy furniture. Pottery typically shows its age–it’s not just smooth. You have to be careful. People are snookered every day. Do your homework and investigate. Go online and learn a lot before you buy. Some manufacturers will tell you what you’re looking for.

Is there a day of the week that’s best for shopping at the Denham Springs Antique Village district?

Fridays and Saturdays are best in this area. There are 15-20 shops here.

This article was originally published in the 2017 Spaces & Places extra issue of 225 Magazine.