Bertram down, but not out



BERTRAM — On the west-facing exterior wall of Mosaic Garden Treasures in Bertram hangs a bouquet of artificial flowers owner Jean Porras placed there to decorate the outside of her business.

  “I put those there just a few days ago,” said Porras, whose business was one of several that were damaged Monday night along a stretch of SH 29 when straight-line winds brought havoc to the small town.

  The plastic flowers and the styrofoam they were rooted in were left untouched by the heavy winds that ravaged the

century-old stone walls of the surrounding structures and Porras counted herself fortunate her business was left relatively unscathed, with only a front awning torn off the facade.

  The fact an adjacent building was undamaged didn’t seem to faze her as she stood and looked around.

  “I don’t question acts of God or acts of nature,” she said.

  Not so fortunate was Amanda Powell, who owns Bertram Blend & Boutique, located on the corner of SH 29 and Grange Street – perhaps 100 yards from Porras’ business.   Her building was doomed to destruction, as she salvaged what she could from the business she’s owned since 2019.

  “I was in shock – I cried,” said Powell, who said she was initially aware of the damage after seeing several social media posts, although she added she wasn’t sure at first if her business was one of the affected.  “We’ve put our blood, sweat and tears into this place for the past two years – it’s worse than I thought it was going to be.”

  Now, much of it is gone, despite the fact many corners of the coffee bar/boutique were virtually untouched – including the chalkboard menu that still hung over the counter.

  Powell said she chose the spot due to its location at the center of the community she also calls home, after previously having lived in Leander and Liberty Hill.

  “It’s a great location,” she said. “Also, I love old buildings.”

  Indeed, many of the buildings in the affected area are over 100 years old and have certainly seen their fair share of bad weather over the decades, but nothing like what hit the small community, seemingly out of nowhere.

  Al Redzematovic owns Mambo Italiano and Fratelli’s Pizza – located on consecutive blocks approximately 500 feet apart. Mambo Italiano suffered major damage to its roof and facade, while Fratelli’s was much less affected.

  The Montenegro native, who opened Mambo in 2017 – and recently established a second Fratelli’s location in Liberty Hill – received a phone call while surveying the damage to his building.

  “It was just one of the locals,” said Redzematovic. “Checking on me to see how everything was.”

  According to Redzematovic, tragedies such as this – while they may seem unfair or unexplainable at the time – can not only bring out the best in people, particularly in a small community such as Bertram, but after the global pandemic has done its best to tear people apart over the past year, perhaps bring back what once existed.

  “Something like this can restore the values of our humanity,” said Redzematovic. “Getting people to work together.”

  As far as why something such as this might have happened, he remained steadfast in his faith.

  “God has a plan for all of us,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason.”