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SCOTT JAGOW: It’s Fat Tuesday, so the party in New Orleans is about to wrap up. It’s been a good one this year. Almost all of the city’s 30,000 hotel rooms were booked. But if you look past the parades, New Orleans is still a city fighting the odds. Last Mardi Gras, Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reported on the struggles of a mom-and-pop grocery store. Today, he’s back to give us an update.
JOHN DIMSDALE: On August 28, 2005, with Katrina bearing down on the Gulf coast, Benny and Karen Terranova locked up their neighborhood grocery store and left town.
It would be three months before they were back open for business. They had to rebuild and restock their store without insurance.
A little over a year later, Karen Terranova is philosophical about the financial consequences.
KAREN TERRANOVA: We were able to get an SBA loan. So I’ll be paying that for many years to come, but that’s life. It could have been worse. I can’t complain, I really can’t. We could have lost everything.
With many neighborhoods still abandoned, crime on the rise, insurance rates skyrocketing, the Terranova grocery store became an anchor for the community just north of downtown New Orleans.
And the customers are back.
TERRANOVA: Business has been booming. We are very blessed. More than before. And I think it has to do with we opened up so quick and people realized that big supermarkets aren’t all of that. And they told us they would stick by us and they have. But you expected it to die, and it hasn’t. I could have people in line that’s short and the person behind them pick up the tab. I mean, before the storm people didn’t look out for each other. But they really have and it has continued.
Karen Terranova says some of her old customers have given up and left town.
Poor schools, she says, have chased families away. And it’s going to be a while before life returns to normal.
TERRANOVA: It could be a lot longer than we all would like to believe. But I think it will come back. New Orleanians are die-hard people.
Businesses say it’s been difficult to adapt to a city that is less than half its pre-Katrina size. Those that have, like the Terranova grocery, say there’s still plenty of financial opportunity if you know where to look.
In New Orleans, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.
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