KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Businesses in the North Cedar Bluff Plaza started to reopen Monday after the historic flooding in late February.
All of the stores in the shopping center were unreachable for nearly a week because floodwaters filled the parking lot and the businesses.
Employees were able to go inside their storefronts about a week after the flooding.
Brenda Lopez, the daughter of the owners of Mexico Lindo, said they were able to open the doors to customers on Friday, six weeks after the flood.
“(It was) a lot of work. We would work from nine in the morning until whenever we pretty much got tired or ready to go,” Lopez said.
Not all of the businesses in the plaza have reopened.
Evan Surrett, the owner of Old Mill Bread Company, said his store is almost ready to sell baked goods, but not quite yet.
“It’s been a long road. I mean, we had to throw everything out and tear the walls down and we had to redo everything,” Surrett said.
Both Surrett and the owners of Mexico Lindo said they took advantage of having to renovate, despite much of the cost coming out of their own pockets.
“We’re going to start doing some hand-sliced meats in here, try to do some different refrigerated baked goods and things like that,” Surrett said.
He said the thought came after he saw the wide-open space and had the ability to move everything anywhere he wanted it.
Surrett and Lopez said the hardest part of the experience was to remind customers they weren’t closing for good, it was just temporary.
Mexico Lindo already had many familiar customers and some new visit since they’ve been open.
Lopez said businesses was slower than usual for a Monday lunch, but acknowledged that word hasn’t reached to everyone that they are back open.
FEMA hasn’t declared a disaster for the state of Tennessee. If it doesn’t declare a disaster, federal financial assistance won’t be available for business owners or residents.