Report from Louisiana: A Generic Economy

Posted: June 20, 2022 by Pat Austin in Uncategorized
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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – A few days ago on this blog, datechguy wrote about a favorite local business that was a casualty of the Biden economy:

In the grand scheme of things it’s just one more business that has gone under thanks to the Biden Administration Economy and the steal of the last election. It’s just a few more jobs lost by people who worked there for decades, it’s just one more person whose decades of hard work building a business has gone for naught. Nobody in Washington will note it, it will not make the NY Time or the Washington Post or the TV news nor will those in the administration which insists we have a booming economy notice that it is gone.

Y’all. I could have written this myself because the same thing happened to me this week and I know it’s happening all over the country. I know it is.

One of my favorite local businesses is Champagne’s Bakery located in Henderson, Louisiana on the edge of the Atchafalaya Basin. The business began 134 years ago in Breaux Bridge and is known for their French bread which they sell wholesale to a large percentage of restaurants in the Acadiana region. At the bakery in Henderson, when the bread is fresh and hot, a flashing light like a siren will spin wildly on their sign. It’s a landmark!

Champagne’s (pronounced SHAM-pines)  is known for their trademark “pink cookies.” They are about the size of a quarter and are little sandwich cookies with icing as the filling. They are just the right size to pop into your mouth whole. During Mardi Gras they make them in purple and green; during football season you can get them in LSU purple and gold or Ragin’ Cajuns red. But always there are pink ones. They are delicious!

When the bakery announced on social media last week that they were closing, a large number of shocked commentors lamented the loss of the pink cookie.

A local radio station reached out to the owner for an explanation:

Paul said that, like most places, the bakery took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Business slowed, but Paul said it wasn’t terrible.

The bakery was still recovering from the pandemic and things were looking pretty good until, he says,  the economy began to turn.

When I pressed him for more, he said that inflation is killing the business.

3 years ago, Paul was paying around $15 for a case of eggs. Today, he is paying around $60. A few years ago, shortening for the baker cost Paul about $28 for shortening. Today, that same package of shortening sets him back $90.

Who can survive increases like that?!

Not to mention that when we were there two weeks ago, they were having trouble getting supplies in because of trucking woes. Their suppliers couldn’t get their goods to them. Smaller trucking companies are having to lay people off and make adjustments of their own; look at the diesel prices to figure that one out.

So, yes, I’m mad that I’m losing my favorite bakery. I’m even more mad that another, yet ANOTHER, local mom ‘n pop business is going under, a casualty of the Biden economy. But what really bothers me is where this is going to end. The WalMarts are going to survive. They’ll be here forever. Most of your chain restaurants are going to survive too. But soon you’re going to lose the local flavor, and even part of the culture, of what makes your area unique.

You’ll have to participate in hyper-capitalism to get anything done, to buy goods and materials, to eat.

Our local diners, those that are left, are struggling. They’re raising prices, they’re closing a couple of days a week, they’re struggling to find employees. They have to take what they can get from the labor force and it’s often lackluster.

I diverge from my point a bit, but really, where is this going to end?

In The Advocate this morning was an article about struggling shrimpers; fishing is a major source of livelihood for people in south Louisiana but rising fuel prices are contributing to the demise of that for a lot of fishermen.

Where does it all end? What will out economy and our culture look like at the end of this?

The loss of our local bakeries, restaurants, diners, and shops will soon mean our country is generic from one end to the other. You won’t be able to tell New Orleans from San Francisco.

Maybe I exaggerate, but not by much.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

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