Wells & LaHatte fulfills dream with new business location

Published 10:41 am Tuesday, April 18, 2023

After more than four weeks since moving into their new location at 2480 South Frontage Road, the eight-member staff at Wells & LaHatte is adjusting to their surroundings.

And Cicero LaHatte is living out his dream that one day his appliance business would occupy that location. It just took a while for the dream to become reality.

“I’ve always liked this building, even back when Sears first started, 20, maybe 29, 30 years ago and I knew Sears was getting in trouble, so I kind of waited around. That was when I was at the corner of Clay and Cherry (streets),” LaHatte said as he sat in his office.

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Sears, a one-time retail giant, was in serious financial trouble, but the process that would one day result in the Vicksburg Sears catalog store closing and vacating the building of LaHatte’s dreams took time to resolve.

And while waiting for the Sears drama to play out, Wells & LaHatte moved from its original location and into a building on Clay Street west of Cherry Street.

“It had a lot more square feet; that way I could carry more inventory and that made my business increase tremendously; my sales picked way up,” LaHatte said.

While Wells & LaHatte was in its then-new location, the Vicksburg Sears closed and building owner Fred Peyton asked LaHatte if he was interested in moving into the now-vacated building.

“I said, ‘Man, that’s one of the dreams of my life, working out of that building,’” LaHatte said.

LaHatte said the business’ original building on the east side of the Clay and Cherry Street intersection has been sold.

“My dad and uncle started the business in the basement of that building in 1935 repairing radios,” LaHatte said. “The radios were battery-powered then. A lot of people didn’t have electricity.”

LaHatte said he is leasing a portion of the newer building on Clay Street for warehouse space.

“That building is larger than this one,” he said.

He said the South Frontage Road building is about 2,000 square feet smaller than the Clay Street building the store occupied before it moved.

“We may add on. I’m working with the owner of the building to see what we can do,” LaHatte said.

He said his father Cicero LaHatte Jr. would like the new location, as would his uncle Lee Roy Wells. LaHatte and Wells’ son, Lee Roy Wells Jr., were also partners in the business.

“I’m going to go out to the grave and say, ‘Hey guys, we’re doing pretty good,’” LaHatte said.

LaHatte said it’s too early to tell if sales have picked up since the store’s move because it’s only been at the location a short period of time.

“We had a record year in 2021 because of the fact I had inventory and that’s not a fair comparison,” he said. “We were over last year this time period, but not like ’21.”

LaHatte said for now he’s going to stay with his current line of appliances.

“We’re going to pretty much stay with the merchandise lines we have. We handle all the Whirlpool products, which is Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Maytag and Amana,” he said.

But the company’s biggest assets, he said, are its employees and service.

“They’re good employees,” LaHatte said. “And of course, we do a lot of service. That’s the main thing; we service what we sell. They just call us for service. Customers like that they don’t have to call an 800 number or anything in warranty or whatever. They call a human being.”

And has he found Wells & LaHatte’s resting spot?

“I have,” LaHatte said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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