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Business three years after Katrina

A pile of fresh oysters

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Oil traders are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Gustav. It'll be in the Gulf of Mexico soon. You can be sure the people of New Orleans are being vigilant. Today's the third anniversary of Katrina. A few months after Katrina, we talked to some business people in New Orleans about their recovery. One of them was Sal Sunseri of P&J Oysters. His company's been around since 1876.

Sal, good morning. How's business these days?

Sunseri: Well, Scott, look, business could be better, but I tell you what -- considering all factors for the status of the city of New Orleans, I think we're doing very, very well.

Jagow: Now, back when we talked to you after Katrina, you were concerned about the restaurant business. Obviously, that's one of your main customers. How do you feel that the restaurant industry is doing in New Orleans as it pertains to your business?

Sunseri: Well, to tell you the truth, we have more restaurants now than we did prior to the storm. The cost of doing business, though, is higher. I mean, just like it is all over the nation, overhead to run a business is just getting enormous. The restaurants aren't quite making as much profit margin. But, you know, they're working hard and producing a beautiful product. We're still, I'm sure, the No. 1 foodie town in the nation, so we're doing a heck of a job.

Jagow: Well, it sounds like you're pretty optimistic, but is there anything at this point that you see as a concern that might be stumbling block to future growth?

Sunseri: I feel the biggest obstacle to our future right now is that government has not fulfilled its obligation to help rebuild this incredible American city. It's so important to the rest of the nation, and our port and our oil and gas. Just look, there is a storm in the Gulf right now and all of a sudden Wall Street and government and everybody's all worried and prices of oil are going up and prices of gas is going up. The reason is that all of the production we have in this area is so important to the United States, and our government needs to protect this area.

Jagow: You know there's a contingent of people out there who say, "You know, it's just not a place where people should be living." What do you say to that?

Sunseri: Is San Francisco an important enough city to protect, even though there's earthquakes there and there could be a big one coming any time soon? How important is each and every great American city? The entire nation is important. We are the richest nation in the world and our government needs to protect its own.

Jagow: All right, Sal Sunseri of P&J Oysters in New Orleans. Thanks for joining us.

Sunseri: Thank you.

Jagow: Our weekend program Marketplace Money just did an entire show from New Orleans. You can hear it online at marketplace.org.

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