City officials and owner Dwayne Boudreaux gathered Jan. 17 to cut the ribbon on the Circle Food Store on North Claiborne and St. Bernard avenues. The historic Treme grocery opened in 1939 as the first African-American-owned grocery store in New Orleans. It closed in 2005 when it was inundated with 5 feet of floodwater following the levee collapse.
The city's Fresh Food Financing Initiative loaned the project $1 million, $500,000 of which it will not have to repay.
"We are going to continue to work really really hard with them to make sure we are as good a partner to them as Dwayne, you and your family have been to us," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "The Boudreaux family, who never left this neighborhood and did everything they could to make sure they came back strong after Katrina ... got back up, took one step at a time, persevered and did what was necessary to be part of a partnership that actually brought back this anchor for the city of New Orleans and actually created the vision for making the Circle Food Store the way she always could have been."
The store already has hired 66 employees, and 95 percent of those live in New Orleans, Landrieu added.
Boudreaux asked the crowd a simple question: "Who would ever think that some crazy folks down in New Orleans would come out and be so excited about the opening of a grocery store? ... But where else in the world would you have a grocery store that has been here for so many years, and got devastated, and closed down and opened eight years later?"
District D Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge Morrell, who grew up four blocks away from Circle Food, had a simple message she directed to the mayor. "This was a vibrant, vibrant area," she said. "We had it all. And we want it back. All I can say to you, Mr. Mayor, is this is a first step, but we need to have some more." — JEANIE RIESS