White Castle mayor eyes economic revival

Staff Report

White Castle Mayor John Morris often hears stories about the days when his town bustled with businesses – and he wants to recoup some elements of those glory days.

White Castle Mayor John Morris

He realizes the times of changed, but Morris said he is up for the challenge of bringing new business to the city.

“I know we may not be able to bring it back to what it was years ago, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t try to bring more business here,” he said. “It would be a big help for the residents and town, as a whole,”

The town serves as home to Cora-

Texas, one of the largest sugarcane refineries in America and one of only 11 remaining in Louisiana. It remains a catalyst to the town and parish economy.

The refinery has stood the test of time and has remained prominent when others have ceased operation.

In an era when agriculture dominated the state economy and most families were relegated to one vehicle, White Castle had a thriving business district.

It looked like classic small-town America. Five-and-dime stores, cafes, three drugstores, soda fountains, neighborhood grocery stores and clothing stores dotted the local landscape.

The town had several full-service gas stations stations, three car dealerships and even a movie theater, which operated until 1959.

As the agriculture industry moved toward large industries rather than family operations, the businesses closed, and the younger generations moved elsewhere in seek of different opportunities. Some of the buildings still stand, others have been demolished, and few – such as the movie theater, in 1988 – went down in flames.

Not all buildings have been led to remain dormant or crumble.

The building that occupied Shaheen’s Department Store, which operated into the 1980s, now serves as the Town Hall. Down the street, the town managed to restore the old White Castle High School gymnasium – built in the 1930s under the Works Project Administration during the Great Depression – now serves as the town’s community center, which hosts local functions and youth activities.

The rise of “big box” stores has made it tougher for some small towns to persevere. White Castle is sandwiched between Plaquemine and Donaldsonville, which makes it tougher to attract larger business.

But it does not mean White Castle cannot set its sights on economic development, Morris said.

He hopes the town can attract new businesses and, in the process, keep more residents from moving elsewhere.

“I believe in this community and I believe there’s a lot of hope for the future,” Morris said. “It’s just a matter of doing what we can to make it happen.”