Whatever Happened to the Neches River Businesses?

TRINITY COUNTY (KTRE) - If Highway 94 between Lufkin and Groveton has been a normal commute for you in the past few years, you know about the businesses on the Neches River as you cross into Trinity County.

The bars and liquor stores were always pretty busy. But that was before Angelina County went wet, and gas prices flirted with $4.00 per gallon.

Nick Maselli opened "Rena's Icehouse" about four months ago, and he says business was fair. But it's not anymore.

"You know the bars close in Lufkin about midnight," says Maselli. "They used to say, 'Let's go to the river,' and now they say, 'Let's just go to Brookshire's and get a six pack, and go home and drink.'"

Maselli has already had to raise his prices to keep up with rising beer prices. And now jsut months after opening, he's gone from being open seven nights a week...to four.

Jimmy Goodwin can relate, although he's having a little more success. "Jimmy's Bar" has been open for nearly 23 years, and Goodwin says the name recognition is a big reason he's still seing steady customers, but that doesn't mean he's seeing as much income.

"They're not drinking like they used to. I can tell by the beer I sell," Goodwin said. "But the money's not there, that's the problem."

The combination of Lufkin being wet and those high gas prices has meant big changes all along the river. The manager we spoke with at "Linda's Drive-Through" told me the customers were still coming, but they were doubling up on their orders. The owner of "The Neches Lounge" said that if things don't pick up, she may not even renew her licenses in November. Goodwin says that's because people are more concerned with keeping their job than they are with having a good time.

"They all got to start again Monday morning, and hope that they've got a job at least. That's the problem."

So, things are definitely tough on the Neches right now, but Goodwin says he's going to do his best to stay open, because people need to have a place to forget the economy, and just relax while they can.

"I'm going to be here. I'm going to try my best to keep it open, because I enjoy doing this for a living," Goodwin said. "I can't say for sure, but we're just going to have to see what happens to the economy, and how it all works out."