SIMON DONATES VACANT BUILDING

After being family owned since 1929, Dennis Simon has donated the corner property at 600 N. Cushing to the Vermilion Parish School Board.

A tornado during Hurricane Rita in 2005 heavily damaged the building, followed by a fire, damaged the building beyond repair.

Knowing it was an eyesore and a hazard to school children who attend Rene Rost Middle School which is next door to the property, Simon decided to tear down the building.

But the simple job of tearing it down quickly and efficiently grew into a nightmare when he ran into environmental problems.

“I could have torn it down with my backhoe in no time,” said Simon. “But environmental regulations prohibited me from doing so. I had several people give me bids and the cheapest cost was $65,000.”

So the building sat vacant. City officials stepped in and voted to demolish it and take a lien against the property for the cost it incurred.

Before that happened, Simon decided the building had served its purpose and donated the property to the Vermilion Parish School Board.

Calvin Woodruff, attorney for the VPSB, said the immediate plans are to demolish the building.

“Because of the cost of tearing it down, we are just focusing on that right now. We want to clean up and that corner and make it safe for the kids,” he said.

The demolition cost is increased due to the presence of asbestos in the building.

The property was purchased by Simon’s father, Eustache Simon, during the depression year of 1929 from the AVRI Land Company.

He built his home and a barber shop. He cut hair for 15 cents and a shave for 10 cents, while a shoe shine was five cents.

After Eustache died in 1934, Dennis’ wife and mother, who was known as “Madam Tache”, opened a small store measuring 14x20 feet and sold school supplies and snacks to children. The hamburgers, ice cream and soft drinks, all sold for five cents.

During the 1940 flood, rising water stopped at the floor of the house.

When Dennis returned from the Air Force during World War II, he opened a confectionery, known as “Den’s” and began serving hamburgers and soft drinks, even providing curb service.

“Many school age children had after school treats there,” said Simon. “ There are many stories about adventures in the building.”

The first black and white television was installed in Kaplan in the confectionery, with a 50 foot homemade antenna erected on the building.

This was also the place where the first organizational meeting and office for Kaplan’s Junior Chamber of Commerce.

In 1948, Dennis opened his independent insurance and real estate agency, with accounting services.

In 1958, he remodeled and enlarged the building, creating office space which eventually accommodated, at some time, a larger office for the agency, a doctor’s office, a physical therapist office, exercise studio, home health agency, a beauty shop, VAE office and attorney’s office.

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