I've tried with little success to find information on the Gold Seal Creamery in Mid-City, the one that made wonderful Creole cream cheese. Where was the creamery and when did it shut down? What happened to the Centanni family who owned it?
The Gold Seal Creamery, built in 1954 at 520 S. Alexander St., has a new identity. It has been converted into 31 energy-efficient, mixed-income apartments called the Gold Seal Lofts and is surrounded by a community garden.
Completed in early 2012, the apartment complex is a project of the Domain Companies, a real estate firm based in New Orleans and New York. The general contractor was Woodward Design + Build. The project cost $7 million and is Domain's fourth apartment development in Mid-City.
Salvador F. "Sam" Centanni founded the Gold Seal Creamery in 1920, and it was a New Orleans fixture until it went out of business in 1986. At the time, the family business employed 60 to 70 workers, including Centanni's five daughters, two sons, three sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. Many of the employees lived in the neighborhood and walked to work each day.
When he closed the creamery, Centanni, the company's 88-year-old president, said competition and rising costs made it impossible to break even. In 1981, the company was doing a healthy daily business of 27,000 gallons of milk, cream cheese and other dairy products, but when it closed five years later, that figure had dropped to 6,000 gallons.
The Centanni family was famous in New Orleans for its elaborate Christmas lawn decorations long before Al Copeland's outdoor displays at his Jefferson Parish home caused traffic jams. In fact, the Popeye's founder has said he was awed by the Centannis' displays when he was a child. For about 20 years, the Centanni home at 4506 Canal St. was the place to go see Christmas decorations. Night after night, streams of pedestrians and lines of cars showed up for the display. Most of the Centannis' yard and rooftop was filled with brightly lit decorations. There was a huge elephant with Santa Claus on top, a chapel with a 12-foot angel, a nativity scene, Rudolph leading Santa's eight reindeer, St. Nick's North Pole workshop and more.
That all ended when Mrs. Centanni, the inspiration behind the lavish decorations, died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 64 as her family's New Year's Eve party was winding down on Jan. 1, 1967. The family never turned on the yuletide lights again. In 1985 the Centanni family donated much of the display to the Friends of City Park, which used it as part of the park's holiday decor.
Salvador Centanni continued to live in the family home until he died at age 97 on Dec. 6, 1995.