Page 40 - June2017

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the man who founded Galveston’s unsinkable reputation.
It happened so fast—a full day before the storm was predicted
to hit, the water had already begun to rise downtown and on the
Strand. This not only eliminated a substantial amount of time needed
to further prepare for the impending inevitability, but also made it
impossible to reach many locations even if time were not a factor.
Shop owners were forced to leave everything where it was, which
happened to be directly in the path of a Category 2 hurricane with a
storm surge equivalent to that of a Category 5.
Ike’s winds reached 110 miles per hour, one mile per hour shy of
a Category 3 hurricane, but despite significant wind damage, the
waves and the storm surge were no match for the Seawall along
the Gulf side of the island. The opposite side along the harbor had
no such protection, and Ike’s 15-foot storm surge (less than a foot
lower than the 1900 Storm) tore through the Strand. Because of the
varying elevation of the blocks and the buildings along the Strand,
the damage was widespread yet not uniform.
Some stores took in only three feet of water, but other locations
were flooded as high as seven and eight feet. Then there was the
Railroad Museum at the foot of the Strand at 25th Street, where
a full size antique locomotive car was found the next day on the
other side of the property’s eight-foot fence, and the antique store
Somewhere in Time on the corner of 20th Street, where the water
line measured an astounding thirteen feet.
But sometimes things get broken so that the magic can get in,
and for the Strand, that magic came from an unlikely place. George
Mitchell was smart in initially pursuing major brand names and factory
outlets to fill the retail spaces on the Strand while he was staging its
comeback. They had the capital to weather erratic business levels, and
the marketing appeal to help stabilize them. He knew that if people
came for the brand, they would stay for the Strand, and it was a
strategy that worked beautifully for over twenty years.
Then, Hurricane Ike came along and graciously revealed that once
people knew about the Strand, eventually the brands would not
matter. This was fortunate, because out of all of the major labels
that vowed to return to the Strand, only one actually did. Bass, Izod,
Van Heusen, and Chico’s never reopened, and Fuddruckers returned
but not before a five year absence. The Rocky Mountain Chocolate
Factory was the only corporate store that returned, yet the others
were not missed.
Instead, they were replaced by the heroes of the Strand’s modern
history—small business owners, led once again by Ike to reclaim
the Spirit of Galveston. The corporate monotony had done well to
re-introduce the Houston area to the Strand, and now the
scene was set for the creativity of small business to step up
and be recognized.
Of course it had always been there, some of the most
notable destinations on the Strand were locally owned.
LaKing’s Confectionery, Colonel Bubbie’s Strand Surplus
Senter, Old Strand Emporium, and Hendley Market had
been there since the beginning and wholeheartedly
returned after Ike, and they pushed through the first
few years of recovery which were unbearably slow
and methodically full of red tape, but storefronts were
steadily filling with unique retail personalities to create a
kaleidoscope of local business.
In 2013, it was discovered that several sets of the iron
columns along the storefronts were still full of saltwater
from the hurricane. It had become cancerous, rusting the
metal from the inside-out. With $775,000 in non-housing
Community Development Block Grants, along with a
twenty-five percent match from property owners and
federal funds to cover any deficit, the iron facades of four
buildings on the Strand and one on Market Street were
completely repaired.
In August of that year, George Mitchell passed away.
Mitchell Historic Properties owned roughly three-quarters
of the Strand, and speculation abounded as to how the
matters of his estate would be settled. Fortunately the
historic street never missed a beat, and improvements only
intensified.
A completely original bar concept called Stuttgarten
opened in 2014 in the Waterwall’s old location, and they
were even able to get the waterwall itself to work again. The
gorgeous shaded patio made it an instant success, and it has
since expanded with another location off the island.
In late 2015, two long awaited projects debuted on the
Strand. Galveston Arts Center at last completed a years-long
renovation of the 1878 First National Bank Building at 22nd
and Strand, where they had long held their studio prior to
Galveston Arts Center
Stuttgarten Patio
Photos by Kimber Fountain
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GALVESTON MONTHLY |
JUNE 2017