An iconic supermarket in a bayou community was engulfed by flames early Wednesday morning, with firefighters from throughout Terrebonne Parish called up to assist.
No known injuries were reported as of dawn at Price’s Supermarket on La. 55 and Dolphin Street.
Montegut Fire Chief Toby Henry said the blaze was reported at around 4:45 a.m. and that the first arriving units saw a heavy volume of flames. A strike force consisting of his department’s members, with others from Bourg and Little Caillou volunteer departments was immediately mobilized. Other departments from as far as Coteau and Dularge were also dispatched to the four-alarm fire.
The store was unoccupied and no injuries were reported.
“We have multiple fire departments out here from multiple districts,” Henry said at around 7 a.m., after the fire had been declared under control. “The firefighters are safe, the civilians are safe and that’s what matters.”
The cause has not yet been determined. Investigators from the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office were present as firefighters did their overhaul in daylight and checked for pockets of flame and the Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Office was notified with a representative en route.
Price’s, an old-fashioned neighborhood grocery run by a family with deep roots in a community closely tied to commercial fishing, was also an anchor for eroding Cajun culture, where boudin sausages and hog-head cheese were still made fresh by hand. In addition to meats, canned goods and produce, the store’s deli section did a brisk daily business at lunchtime with legendary po-boy sandwiches. True to the general store personality, the store featured a full line of groceries but was also a place where white shrimp boots and chicken feed could be purchased as well.
Daniel, Evelyn, Butch and Louise Price, the store’s owners, are beloved members of the Montegut community and are intensely involved with social and church functions.
“At one time we had multiple grocery stores, but this is the only one here for 20 years,” said Laura Ann Browning, a Montegut resident whose book “Faith, Families and Friends” chronicles the community whose history Price’s is a part of. It mentions the Price family and their role in the community. Browning noted that Butch Price’s father, William Sr., was a 16-year-old volunteer who helped fight another notable Montegut fire, the burning of Sacred Heart Church in 1954.
Browning said the loss of the store to the community will be profound, not only economically but also emotionally.
“We won’t have a grocery store,” she said. “It’s one of those legs on the stool that keeps a community viable.”
The store routinely made grocery orders for Gulf-bound shrimp boats and oilfield vessels.
Reggie Dupre, director of the Terrebonne Levee District and a former state representative, is in the grocery business with his family members, who own stores in neighboring Bourg and Pointe-aux-Chenes. He said the loss of a small independent supermarket is tremendous to a community, pointing out the importance of his own family’s businesses as well as the Piggly Wiggly in Chauvin.
“My thoughts and prayers are with them,” Dupre said. “To see a fellow independent grocer undergo that kind of tragedy is very sad.”
Kimberly Chauvin, a shrimp boat and dock owner from Chauvin, occasionally shopped in the store, and expressed shock and sorrow for the loss the Price family suffered.
“They worked all their lives for that store,” she said.