A new gem on the river

DERON TALLEY, EDITOR @DeRonTalley
David and Lydia Hambrick cut ribbon with former First National Bank employees and Donaldsonville leaders on Sept. 3 for The Columns on the River venue on Mississippi Street.

David and his wife Lydia Hambrick bought the “Bank of Ascension” building in November of 2013. On Sept. 3, 2014 the couple and several other community leaders cut ribbon for Donaldsonville’s “elegant yet affordable venue” called The Columns on the River.

When the Hambricks enrolled their children into the Ascension Catholic School last fall, Lydia said she noticed everything seemed to be for sale in town. And right up the street from the school was the old bank building.

“I was originally thinking apartments,” Lydia Hambrick said, about the 27,000 square foot building. “But the more we got into it this face just screamed venue.”

After less than a year of reconstruction, done mostly themselves, the Hambricks are able to say they are open for business.

The last time the bank building was used for business was in 1998. At that time, David Dubreuil was the manager of the then-called, “First National Bank.”

Dubreuil said he’s very appreciative of what the Hambricks have done with the building he managed for 32 years.

“I’m really appreciative of the Hambrick family taking the opportunity and making the investment into this building to keep it for the people in Donaldsonville,” Dubreuil said, who came to work in the building in 1966. “These kinds of buildings fall into bad shape and the first thing you know is they’re gone.”

The Hambricks not only were able to keep the building alive, but also Dubreuil’s memories of working in it as well.

“My memories were the people who worked here,” Dubreuil said looking around the building. “And of course the people that trusted us with their money and came and did business with us, we appreciated them.”

“We had some bad memories,” Dubreuil said, with a smile.

“I had a friend stop by for a visit one day and one of the tellers comes running in and says we’ve been robbed,” he said and laughed. “So I said excuse me I’ve got business to take care of because somebody came in and robbed us. That was the only time we had been robbed.”

Dubreuil wasn’t the only person to attend the ribbon cutting who worked in the old bank. The Hambricks let Inez Landry, a long-time teller, cut the ribbon for the opening of their new business.

Landry worked in the old bank from 1965 to 1985 and remembers doing all kinds things during those times. Looking at the building now, she echoed the sentiments of everyone else in attendance – beautiful.

It’s beautiful,” she said. “I’m so glad they did something with it because it’s not good for a place to just go down.”

The Hambricks are familiar with reconstructing old places and turning them into gems. However, they admit they had never done anything at such a grand scale. But their work isn’t done. The Columns on the River venue only used about 4,500 square of the building’s size. With the remainder, Lydia said it just screams, venue, bar and hotel.

“We’re going to use every inch of it,” Lydia said.

The Hambricks will begin to reconstruct the remainder of the facility into a 16-room hotel and also have a bar called, “Gaston’s Pub.”

“Hopefully this time next year we’ll be done with the next phase,” Lydia said.

David said it was a lot of hard work but he’s proud of what they’ve accomplished.

The Hambricks said the City of Donaldsonville has been great to them in their investment in the community and have shown a lot of support.

“The people here are great,” David said. “Nobody knows about Donaldsonville, everybody always said don’t go to Donaldsonville but this place is going to be the bomb. I know why we’re doing what we’re doing and it’s because Donaldsonville is about to grow.”