Jeff Davis Avenue is a pretty good indicator about business progress in downtown Long Beach. One end of that normally busy street remains in ruins from the hurricane. But the other end provides the promise of a downtown on the rebound.
Rubble and ruin are still abundant where Jeff Davis Avenue meets the shoreline. Two blocks inland, the desolation is also evident. Shattered storefronts remain. A once thriving flower shop has relocated, while a musty odor and scattered mud cover the remains of a picture frame gallery.
But amid the brokenness are signs of recovery.
"We're seeing some movement in the right direction," said the branch manager of People's Bank downtown.
Michael Johns' window on the world shows a downtown Long Beach in transition. The bank manager sees promise in each business which reopens.
"People need money to rebuild. People need to be able to come to us with questions about their SBA loans and what FEMA is going to do to help them. We're here to answer their questions and trying to do as much as we can provide to get them back in business," he said.
Lil' Rays is busy feeding the business owners and work crews. The signature po boys returned just a few months after the storm.
"December fourth. And we've been having a waiting list every day. Couldn't ask for anything better. We're just now getting open on Friday nights. It's really hard with the help issues. But we're dealing with it. And we're flowing, it's running," said manager Kyle Kidd.
Sonic also wants to reclaim its share of the restaurant crowd. Workers are busy building a new drive in.
Across the street, a brand new business should be up and running by April first. A former hardware store will soon sell carpet and flooring.
"We're going to put in a company called coast flooring. We're going to handle carpet, ceramic tile, vinyl, wood laminate. And try to help the citizens of Long Beach to rebuild a little bit," said store manager, Chris Carrubba.
A little bit at a time is exactly how downtown is recovering.
Long Beach merchants say they're confident in the long term future of downtown. While some business owners were fortunate enough to open just a few months after the storm, others will take years to recover.