'It's hard to not get depressed:' Waco business reopens 5 months after winter storm

Posted at 10:28 AM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-14 11:28:45-04

WACO, Texas — It’s been a pretty tough past year, to say the least. For many local business owners, they felt like they got the short end of the stick, if there was one to be pulled.

Providing goods and services to the public in a pandemic era, proved to be harder than expected with strict guidelines and forced shutdowns.

Then, Texas was hit by a deadly winter storm that shut down most of the power grid, causing major damage to some buildings and wreaked havoc on most of Central Texas.

One of those severely damaged by the storm was the Spice Village on the corner of Franklin Ave. and Second St. in Waco.

In that same building lies The Olive Branch Bakery and Cafe.

The small restaurant opened its doors back in 2001 and has faced adversity first hand, but nothing like what they had to deal with after the snowstorm burst pipes and flooded out their space completely.

“I've never seen destruction like that my entire life, ever,” Leah Stewart, the co-owner of The Olive Branch, said while thinking back to the moment she opened the front doors. “The second thought was, 'do I have insurance for this?' The third thought was, 'What do I do now?'”

While the pipes burst, the restaurant’s electricity never turned off, meaning equipment inside of the establishment was getting steamed like a string bean.

Stewart recalled driving up to the location to assess the damage. She knew it was bad when it was impossible to see through the windows from the outside due to the blanket of condensation covering the glass.

Then she opened the doors and remembered water racing out, covering her shoes as she entered.

“They [construction workers] were just walking through every day, you know, writing ‘damage out’ or ‘tear down,’” she recalled. “It was a little overwhelming.”

The damages, estimated to be worth over $245,000, forced her to close her doors indefinitely on Valentine’s Day, not knowing when the nice time she would be serving guests out of the space.

It was a feeling neighboring restaurants and shops next door to her felt, too.

“We've all discovered resiliency, we've all discovered adaptability,” Denitia Blount, the owner of Oh My Juice said. “In business, those things are important.”

After exactly 5 months of repairs, and brainstorming for new and improved ideas, The Olive Branch reopened its doors, and this time they’re bringing dinner with them.

“The biggest key for me was to be positive, to really focus on the good things that we could do,” said Stewart. “And the positive changes that we could make.”

The restaurant is open every day, except Tuesday, and is open from 10 am to 9 pm and on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm for brunch.