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Blind-ed by the Storm 

R.J. Blinds by Design creates special window treatments for every room in your house.Things were rough for local businesses after Hurricane Katrina, especially since the stress of rebuilding and relocating fell squarely on business owners' shoulders.

Rusty Toups, owner of Marrero window treatment company R.J. Blinds by Design (446 Saint Ann St., Marrero, 328-4241), likes the luxuries that come with being his own boss, but says it's tough at times running a one-man show.

"I do have assistants when I need them, but mostly it's just me, myself and I," he says. "It's stressful, but I do it."

It was especially stressful after Hurricane Katrina, when the business' Lakeview showroom and Toup's home in the same area were destroyed by floodwaters.

"It was hard," Toups says. "But I just took one step at a time."

Luckily Toups was able to relocate his business to the West Bank, where he now lives and works for many of the same patrons as his pre-Katrina business. Toups estimates that about 90 percent of his clientele returned after the storm.

"I was busy, busy, busy," he says of the time right after the storm. Even two years after Katrina, Toups stays busy with his regular clients, who keep coming back to him, and the large volume of new business he gets from word-of-mouth referrals. Toups attributes his loyal customer base to the service he offers.

"It's a one-on-one experience," he explains. "It's the quality and service that I give to my customers."

For Toups, making window treatments has always come naturally, which is why he's been in the business for 15 years. After years of working for another window treatment company, Toups decided to use his expertise to create his solo business venture, R.J. Blinds by Design. The business is now seven years old.

Despite what the name might imply, Toups specializes in more than just blinds; he offers all window treatments, including drapery and shutters.

A hot item of late is shutters, Toups says, especially for people rebuilding their homes.

"I think [shutters are] something that people have always wanted," he says. "Now they're rebuilding and want to do it this time the way they always wanted to do it."

Besides the selection of window treatments, customers also can take advantage of the store's new mail-in rebate special on all products.

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