Local businesses look to rebound from devastating fire

Published 2:41 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2022

LUTCHER — Four days after a devastating fire consumed the buildings that house their businesses, owners of The Ferry Landing Café and The Ferry Landing 2 Vintage and Makers’ Market gathered under tents near the railroad tracks in Lutcher to continue serving the community.

St. James Parish firefighters arrived on scene in the early morning hours of July 21 to battle a massive blaze that originated inside The Ferry Landing Café. The fire spread among four rental properties situated closely together along Highway 44 in Lutcher, resulting in the total loss of both Ferry Landing businesses, as well as Roussel’s Fabrication. No injuries were reported.

Property owner Jerome Jenkins was alerted to the fire after a phone call from his son, a St. James Parish officer, pulled him from his slumber around 1 a.m. Thursday morning. Jenkins asked his brother, who lives near the property, to take a look. After it was confirmed that the buildings were burning, fire personnel were on scene, and nothing more could be done, Jenkins tried his best to get some sleep. The flames were still burning more than six hours later when he arrived on scene at 7:30 a.m.

The rental properties have been in Jenkins’ family for the past 40+ years. The metal buildings and the late 1800s house that contained The Ferry Landing Café were purchased by his parents following his father’s early retirement from Middle South Utilities, now known as Entergy.

“Not only do I have memories there, but I’ve remodeled and restored that old house half a dozen times over the past 30, 40 years. I have put a lot of time, a lot of blood, a lot of sweat and a lot of tears into that place, and to see it all but disappear in five or six hours is kind of hard, not only for me, but for my family as well. All of us spent a lot of time there at some point in time,” Jenkins said.

He added that the loss is hard not only on his family, but on St. James Parish as a whole. He described the owners of the impacted businesses as good tenants who quickly left their mark on the community.

“It’s not just us. It’s our buildings, but there were another 65, 70 families that were all involved with that little marketplace and sandwich shop. It was becoming a staple. It’s affected the whole community because so many people were involved in it,” Jenkins said. “We know accidents happen. I am an even-keeled kind of guy. I don’t get overly upset over things I can’t control.”

The Ferry Landing debuted in early 2020, showcasing the talent of local crafters. When The Ferry Landing split into two distinct businesses early this year, everything handmade, homemade and vintage became part of The Ferry Landing Two Vintage and Makers’ Market, which offered more than 2,700 square feet packed with unique gifts including antiques, jewelry, homemade wreaths, local honey and so much more.

Mary Walker and Marla Brignac took over the craft and antiques component of the business.

Meanwhile, Mary’s daughter Keri Tramonte and her husband, Andy, transformed the charming 1880s house on the back of the property into The Ferry Landing Café. The cozy coffee shop was a dream come true for Andy Tramonte, who yearned to build a safe haven for his 14-year-old son with autism. The business grew into a nearly 24-hour operation with late night deliveries to hospital employees and the community. A mobile espresso cart also allowed the café to expand to cater weddings, baby showers and teacher appreciation events at local schools.
The mobile coffee cart was one of the only items that survived the fire. The Tramontes said anyone who wants to book the coffee cart or offer a place to set up can contact The Ferry Landing Café Facebook page or text Andy Tramonte at 225-264-3399.

“People are donating and praying real hard for us to come back,” the Tramontes told L’OBSERVATEUR. “We had become like a second home for so many different people. Diverse groups from teens to older folks, the bar room late night crowd to the Sunday morning coffee ladies.”

The Ferry Landing Two was gearing up for a big Christmas in July event prior to the fire. On Sunday, July 24, owners set up on Main Street to sell gumbo, potato salad and pastalaya. The community was also able to shop for local handmade and homemade goods at a mini market created using extra inventory. Meanwhile, the coffee shop was on site with refreshing drinks and biscuits.

“The Ferry Landing and Ferry Landing Two are still here. That feeling of home you felt at TFL is still there when we see each other. Who knows, we might be able to fill your bellies and caffeinate your souls sooner than we think,” the owners said in a Facebook post.

To support The Ferry Landing businesses, visit https://checkout.square.site/merchant/DHHBJMMY212K1/checkout/A6CUNGPJG5RXACUU2YQ26O3R?src=sheet or direct donations via Venmo @TheFerry-Landing and @TFL2_Vintage_Makers_Mkt

The Ferry Landing Two’s community vendors are continuing to showcase their products on a Marketplace group, which will be set up soon at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tfl2vendormarketplace

Jenkins sees that the businesses have a lot of fight left in them. They survived COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida, and this is just the latest hurdle to overcome.

“The local businesses, they are down. I don’t think they are out,” Jenkins said. “It’s emotional, but we’ll get through it. We don’t know exactly right now about a rebuilding schedule.”

According to Jenkins, the next step is to wait on insurance and hope the coverage is fair.

“My mama passed away in January. One of her wishes was that we kept the rental property portion of her business alive. I’m not going to let seven months knock me down,” Jenkins said.

Editor’s Note: The Staycation-themed Summer 2022 edition of River Parishes Magazine, which was written earlier this month and is currently being shipped to LaPlace, features a story about The Ferry Landing Café and The Ferry Landing 2 Vintage & Makers’ Market in Lutcher. The magazine was sent to press on July 15, almost a week prior to the fire that resulted in a total loss of the buildings that house both businesses.