On August 24, 2017, Janice and Robert Jucker, the owners of the three locations of Three Brothers Bakery, checked in with their general manager while they traveled to Colorado. They told him they could turn back home, but everyone figured the rain over the Gulf of Mexico would be nothing more than a little tropical storm.
Then Hurricane Harvey dragged over Texas and stalled, dropping between 30 and 70 inches of rain onto the Houston metropolitan area over four days.
“A year ago today we basically had no debt,” said Janice Jucker on August 24, 2018. “Then it rained for four days.”
Three Brothers Bakery’s Memorial and Washington Avenue locations opened six days after Harvey shut them down, while the Braeswood Boulevard location took in five feet of water—much of it pushing over from the City of West University wastewater treatment via Brays Bayou—and was quiet for 17 days. In that time, while still paying employees, the Juckers had to remove the water, and buy new equipment, delivery vans, and ingredients.
This wasn’t the first time Three Brothers endured disaster. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison brought floods that closed Braeswood for three days. In 2008, Hurricane Ike destroyed the location’s roof. And the May 2015 and April 2016 storms flooded Braeswood further. Each time, Three Brothers reopened.
And while they reopened after Harvey, winning a 2018 Small Business Administration Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery, and continue to serve residents of the Braeswood Place and Meyerland areas, they’re still battling to maintain the good health of their business. They took out $850,000 in disaster loans since Harvey, but the repairs and new purchases put them at a place where they have the same amount in debt.
“In the food business, if you were teetering on the edge and you didn't have money and good financials and can’t get a loan, you’re probably not gonna make it,” said Jucker, who noted they’ve thought about moving the Braeswood storefront elsewhere to avoid further flooding issues, but that would mean adding another $1.5 million of debt. “We have good credit and some money in the bank for a rainy day … and (now) we’re hoping that it doesn’t rain.”
Specifically, in the next three years. The Juckers imagine it’ll take that long for their part of the city to recover enough to sustain itself. Until then they pray that it doesn’t rain like Harvey, or even any of the previous events. And they hope people can invest even a little in their community, as they may keep some folks from moving, which would help their business.
"We shop online in this world now,” said Jucker. “If everyone in America who shops online went and found one thing that they could buy from someone in one of these disaster zones, think about what it would do to elevate the economy of that area and help them recover that much faster.”