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How One Salon Survived the Wreckage of the Louisiana Floods

Heather Smith with Anne Moratto | September 6, 2016 | 9:23 AM
Inside the drawers at the salon stations

One of our wonderful Guest Bloggers, Heather Smith, has been very involved in aiding salon professionals suffering from recent storms and flooding in and around Louisiana. Smith set-up Denham Blue, a relief organization bringing supplies and support to those displaced stylists with destroyed salons and/or homes.  Recently, she shared an email she received from salon owner Natalie Crosser.  Smith had asked Crosser to write what happened when the waters rose:

Email from Natalie Crosser to Heather Smith:

"Early in the morning on August 12th I got a call from one of my staff asking if we were closing the salon because the parish was closing schools due to rain. I was annoyed. I had just bought my salon and the building it is in 1.5 years ago and I hate closing the salon for weather related events. They always seem to be no big deal and I have wasted my time rescheduling and inconveniencing guests and then have to go back and try to reschedule the lost business.

"I went ahead and went to the salon and rescheduled all of the guests that day and went home to try to enjoy my day off. As the day went on, I started noticing facebook posts about areas around us flooding. Although I felt for the people, it didn't seem to be anything more than isolated events. It rained hard all day and through the night. Saturday morning it was still raining and I knew this was hurting a lot of people but I still didnt think it would affect me. 

"That afternoon another one of my staff texted me and said her Aunt, who worked on a connecting street to the one my salon is on, saw water in the lobby of her business through their remote cameras. Shocked, I decided to check my own cameras and saw there was already at least 6-inches of water in the salon. I kept looking at it, thinking maybe the picture wasn't clear. 10 minutes later the cameras went out and I knew it was bad. Around this time I called my Summit consultant and told her we were in trouble. She helped me to put things in perspective and make a plan of action. I got names of disaster clean up companies and called them right away to be first on the list to get the salon back in order. I also checked my insurance and confirmed I did NOT have flood insurance.

"It rained 40 inches in three days. We tried to go get groceries for my family on Saturday but all of the stores were closed, gas stations were closed or had lines 20 cars long and many roads were already full of water. We went home to wait it out. Our phones quit working that day because the AT&T station had flooded so our only communication with our family was through facebook but we never lost power and kept the news on constantly. 

"The devastation around us was terrifying. The water rose so fast that people were getting trapped in their homes and cars on the roads. This amazing community acted quickly though, hundreds of random people with boats went out and started rescuing people door to door. Social media was used to coordinate rescue efforts in an amazing way. If it hadn't been for the quick thinking courage of the people that live here, I know thousands of people would have died. 

"Sunday morning we started hearing helicopters non stop so we went out to see what was going on. At the end of our road is a school that was being used as a shelter for the homes around us. Over night the flood had traveled downstream and overflowed all the creeks and streams. On the other side of the school Greys Creek had rised to epic levels and just swallowed the homes that I'd always seen there. We were at the top of a hill and boats were being launched all around us to find people. In a panic I went home and told my family to pack. We had no way to get out at this point but we planned on going to the school and being evacuated by boat or helicopter if necessary. 

"Thankfully that was the crest and the water didn't rise any farther. We  went to the school to see what was needed and there were families, children and pets laying on the floor in shock. The cafeteria was being used to feed them but we went home and gave them all our extra blankets, pillows and toiletries. My husband found out a boy had left with no shoes and gave him a pair. 

"Monday morning I called the software company my salon uses. I knew the computers were flooded but I thought our software had cloud backup through the company running it. When I called and asked for a file transfer to my home computer, they informed my that I didn't have cloud back up. I still didn't believe them and had them look a couple more places. When it finally sank in, I had the biggest melt down I've ever had in my life. I am not an outwardly emotional person but the shock and trauma of the last few days had added up. I felt hugely responsible and ashamed for letting my team down. We had no client data, no appointment calendar, no payroll info, no inventory. Our entire way of making a living was lost. I knew the salon and building were ruined so we had no where to work and now I've lost the way for my staff to communicate with their clients. I thought I'd ruined all of our lives. 

"We were trapped in our house until Tuesday. By then I had learned that 90 percent of the homes in our city had flooded. Amazingly only 1 of my staff's home flooded. As soon as the water receded enough we piled into my husband truck to try to get to the salon. We almost didn't make it. There was still a lot of high water and there were cars blocking the roads everywhere. They had stalled out or had been parked at "high" places that werent high enough. We had to drive through a persons yard to get passed a pile of cars but we made it.

"I knew it would be bad because I had seen new footage of the area. But when i saw the salon. it was completely surreal. Water is violent. Everything was brown and wet. All the stations were knocked over, papers were all over the office, the fridge had fallen over and blocked the entry to the laundy room, art pieces were ruined. All of our tools except a few shears left on top of stations had been submerged. It stunk! 

"We had brought every storage bin we owned and immediately started to salvage what was left. My husband pulled the hard drives from the computers and drove to Fed Ex to ship them to a data recovery place I had researched in Florida. The rest of my family helped my pack up anything over 4 feet. It took us two days to salvage. We were able to save all of color and about 50 percent of out retail. I also remembered to save the wet. muddy remodel plans the previous owner had done a few years ago but we never had the money to do. I left wet, smelly, and exhausted.

"It took a week and a small fortune to get our data back, but miraculously it was saved. I worked from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. that whole time trying to find a place for my staff to work and start figuring out where to begin reconstructing my salon. I stayed in constant contact with my Summit consultant. She helped put me in contact with people that were willing to help. I was blessed to know Amey Flash who owns Styles Studio, not far from our salon. We are both Summit salons and carry the same product lines. She was gracious enough to let us share her space even though she and one of her team had lost their homes and 1 car during this and was dealing with her own chaos. 

"We have 11 sylists sharing six stations. We made it work by double shifting each station, opening Monday and rotating off Saturdays. We are keeping each salon separate with separate computers, and inventory. We also made sure to have one shift a week where each salon works by themselves to keep our own individuality.

"I'm not sure what day it was but I got a call from Heather Smith. I had never talked to her before, but I learned that she runs Stylenet, the company that manages our website. She asked me how I was doing. I don't remember the whole conversation, but I'm sure there were tears and snot involved. She is amazing because from that one conversation she started a Facebook page called Denham Blue. It has grown to a huge network geared toward helping stylists and salons affected by the flood. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of perfect strangers that are helping us and other salon professionals rebuild with tools, products and equipment. Heather and this group have been a true gift and brightened some very dark days.

"I'm still not sure where all of this is going. The roads are still full of mountains of trash from gutted homes. Our client base is in flux because so many people are displaced. I am working to find contractors and permits to make my building safe and secure while juggling full time behind the chair to pay for it. I am dealing with the SBA disaster loan service to aid in financing rebuilding. I am taking it one day at a time right now because there are too many questions and not enough answers. 

"I have learned a lot though. I have learned that you CANNOT have too much insurance. What will never happen, did. I have learned having a disaster plan should be thought about now.  I learned that having a backup team is essential. I would probably be still crying on my couch right not if it weren't for my Summit coach helping my prioritize. I have learned that people amaze me.  My family and friends are my rock.The community has come together to help each other because everyone is affected. Churches are giving out food and supplies to people that have lost everything. People are opening their homes to displaced families. Amey Flash and Styles Studio are a blessing to give us so much when they have lost too. Heather Smith and Denham Blue are helping so many in our industry here. I see a small light at the end of a very long tunnel and it is coming from people. Love wins."

Visit Denham Blue's Facebook for more information on how you can help.

 

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