NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - It’s a rural Louisiana town that once boasted of two sawmills, a cotton gin, small farms, moss pickers and a general store. Now, all that’s left is the old general store.
The village of Palmetto grew up along the railroad tracks that cut an east-west path across the middle of Louisiana. The main street, Highway 10, used to be the main road between New Orleans and Shreveport until Governor Huey Long decided to build a better highway south of here. Marx Budden’s dad tells the story.
“And he always said that Huey got caught speeding or his driver speeding in Melville, and it wasn't long after that that the road was changed,” Marx said.
Budden’s father opened this general merchandise store in 1934 during the great depression and that same year Marx was born.
A few pieces of old merchandise never sold like the cast iron hub for a wagon wheel.
Marx’s younger brother Guy Budden now owns and manages the family business.
“So, you need three of them. I got three in a box right here,” Guy said.
Where a customer can call ten minutes before closing time and make a purchase.
He said put it on my bill and put it out the back door, Guy said.
Guy keeps track of his customers’ charges on an antique McCaskey system account register that’s older than the store.
“It shows his balance and you write down the balance and then you write what he gets, and you put it back in the mousetrap,” Guy said.
At Budden’s, you can get your chain saw repaired, find a plumbing part, get kitchen wares, and groceries. but not everything is for sale, even when a customer offered five hundred dollars for this old clock.
“And he said, but when we were dating, we'd go to Opelousas and on the way back we come and check to see what time it was, see if I have to bring Cheryl back home or if we can go neck and on the levy,” Guy said.
You have a dollar store 10 miles to the west of you. You got another one for miles to the east of you, right? People shop online on amazon these days. How do they stay in business with that kind of competition?
“Definitely service, service with your customers, helping them learn how to fix stuff or tell them what they need,” Guy said.
And, it’s worked for 85 years:
Over the years, Palmetto’s population has dwindled to about 140 people.
“I could sit there at the front door and I guarantee you 90 percent of the people that come through the door, I’ll know them, and they know me.” Marx said.
Marx Budden is in his fourth term as mayor. Brother guy is a two-term alderman, and both chose to stay in this small town and run their daddy’s store.
We asked them was there a point where you’re like, man that’s like the last thing I want to do?
“Yes, there was. When you turned 18, that's what happens. You see stuff on the other side of the fence, you rather go do and you go do that a little while, but you come right back home,” Guy said.
What this town lacks in size, it seems to make up for in friendliness.
Guy Budden says it’s unlikely the third generation of Budden’s will run the family general store.