By Andrew D. Brosig
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO - When Jon Moore was laid off last year from a managerial position with a major electronics manufacturer in Austin, he opted to sink his life savings into Salado Creek Winery.
"We thought, why not do something for ourselves," Moore said, citing the struggling economy and rocky job market. "I'd been making wine since I was 16."
He opened the winery in November 2009 in the historic building on the banks of Salado Creek, which also houses John and Rhonda Rosanky's gifts and antiques shop, Rosansky's. Less than a year later, Moore said he wasn't sure if the winery could be resurrected after the devastating flood Sept. 8, which caused some $30 million in damages and claimed several lives across the state.
"When the flood happened, we were just reaching the point of turning the corner, being able to begin making reinvestments in the business," Moore said. "Then, to have a five-week chunk of that taken out, plus the money we had to put back in, that was almost devastating.
Rhonda Rosanky, too, faced the destruction and loss of the business she and her husband, John, had built over 10 years in a sudden rush of water. She knew things weren't good the night of the flooding when, as they drove down to survey their business, they saw a friend whose car had been stopped up the hill from their building by the rising tide.
A rising Salado Creek was not an oddity, Rosanky said. But she knew, if the water had come up that far, their business certainly was flooded.
"The water has gone over the bridge (adjacent to the building) many times," Rosanky said. "Then, we were standing on the corner (across from the building), watching the side door that is never open, open with water rushing out of it.
"Then, when we finally got inside, it was worse than I feared," she said. "We couldn't even get through the store."
Both Moore and the Rosankys have reopened, the winery in new digs up the hill out of the flood area in mid-October and the gift shop in its same historic, creek-side building, on Oct. 1. Business has picked up steadily in the intervening weeks.
Now, with the first weekend of the annual Salado Christmas Stroll behind them, both are guardedly optimistic again for the future.
"The opening weekend was really good," Rosanky said. "I haven't seen that many people at the Stroll in many years. It might be the most people I've seen since I've been in business over the past 10 years."
Moore agreed. The tourism-based economy in Salado means the first quarter of the year - the January through March time period - is typically slower. Local businesses, particularly his, are heavily dependent on Christmas holiday revenues to help weather those dry months, Moore said.
When officials saw the impact the flooding had on local businesses in general, not just those few directly affected by the flooding, the Chamber of Commerce and the village government teamed up to put additional emphasis on promoting the Christmas Stroll, Mayor Merle Stalcup said.
Businesses weren't the only things affected by the flood, Stalcup said. Several homes were damaged and are still in the recovery and rebuilding stage.
"But it's come back remarkably well," he said. "Our businesses are reopened and doing quite well. We've done extremely well."
There's one more weekend of the Salado Christmas Stroll to go.
Salado businesses are banking on a second, strong showing to round out a successful holiday shopping season, Moore and Rosanky said.
"I think everyone is pretty much back to normal," Rosanky said. "But we're glad to have (the flood) behind us. Like they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We got through it."
If you go
The Salado Christmas Stroll offers music, food, shopping and other entertainment at various locations around the village from Friday to Sunday.
Go to www.salado.com and follow the links for a full schedule of events. For more information, call the Salado Chamber of Commerce at (254) 947-5040.
Contact Andrew D. Brosig at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7469.