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The story of New Orleans’ recovery in one business

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It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina and the flood-of-floods struck New Orleans. In the following decade, the city has transformed its public schools, housing and business community. Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio traveled to the city to explore what these vast changes mean for New Orleans and the country. 

If you wanted a stuffed pepper in New Orleans, the place to get that pepper for generations of New Orleanians was an urban grocery store in the city’s Seventh Ward called Circle Food Store.

Brooke Boudreaux

“We have the cheapest green bell peppers in the city,” says Brooke Boudreaux, director of marketing at Circle Food and daughter of owner Dwayne Boudreaux. “A lot of people come in and they’re upset that it’s no longer five for a dollar, but it has been 10 years.” Flooded and destroyed by Katrina, Circle Food lay fallow for most of the past decade. 

“The initial surge was about nine feet, of course [we] lost all of our inventory and, not to mention, most of the neighborhood was devastated,” Boudreaux says. “After Katrina, it wasn’t a question, ‘Are we going to come back?’ It was, ‘Is there anything to come back to?'” The store did reopen, eight and half years later, in January of 2014. Though the business had insurance and some means, rebuilding was slow and came with hurdles. 

“We are talking about a building that is over 100 years old. Every time we tried to build, we found new things, new issues, new problems,” Boudreaux says. “There were big companies that would come and say, ‘We’ll just take this off your hands.'” She and her mother urged her father not to sell. 

”We have the cheapest green bell peppers in the city,” Boudreaux says.

“We [had] people calling us from Texas saying, ‘If the store reopens, we’re coming back to our neighborhood,'” she says. After reopening, the store hired back over 60 original staff members. But Boudreaux also is looking ahead. 

“People are different. Now people want organic things, and people want stuff that we would never even consider selling before,” says Boudreaux, who now stocks quinoa on the shelves of her family’s store. “We gotta think about the future, because that’s where we’re going to be. Thinking about the past constantly, it’ll keep you down and you gotta keep moving forward.”

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