Supermarket owners Donald, Donny and Allison Rouse, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and District B Councilwoman Stacy Head opened a new Rouses supermarket Nov. 15 at Baronne and Girod streets in the CBD (the site of the former Sewell Cadillac dealership). Also on hand for the opening were state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, state Rep. Helena Moreno and about two dozen chefs from some of the city's leading restaurants, several of whom are used in the supermarket's ad campaigns.
Landrieu praised the chefs for their contributions to the city's "cultural economy." Reflecting the well-heeled downtown population, the store offers high-end shopping (a stone-fired pizza oven, a pho bar, a gelateria, a humidor) in addition to the usual foodstuffs and Louisiana-made products.
Rouses is the first new supermarket to open downtown since the A.M. & J. Solari Market and Food Emporium was demolished in the 1960s (the location now houses Mr. B's restaurant). Downtown residents lost their two closest supermarkets — Robert Fresh Market on Elysian Fields Avenue and Winn-Dixie on Basin Street — after Hurricane Katrina. Both still sit empty; the Robert location has been recently used as a site for NOLA Drive-In movie nights, while the Winn-Dixie was a location in the second season of Treme as "Robideaux's Market" (the sign is still atop the abandoned building). There is a small Rouses in the French Quarter, while Warehouse District and CBD residents have access to the small-but-upscale Poeyfarre Market. The Faubourg Marigny got a new grocery alternative last month when the 4,800-square-foot New Orleans Food Cooperative opened in the New Orleans Healing Center on St. Claude Avenue.
Much has been made about "food deserts" in New Orleans, though they might more accurately be called "nutrition deserts" — areas where healthy food is difficult to obtain because of distance, lack of public transit and other factors. A 2009 study of New Orleans food deserts by researchers at Tulane University found Uptown to be the area with the easiest availability to healthy food, while residents of Central City and Village de L'Est in eastern New Orleans had the biggest challenges. On Nov. 5, eastern New Orleans got its first new market since Hurricane Katrina when the USA Neighborhood Market opened on Morrison Road.
Actor Wendell Pierce, a New Orleans native, says he hopes to address the shortage of supermarkets when he opens his first Sterling Farms market next spring in the 9th Ward with business partner and former mayoral candidate Troy Henry. Pierce envisions a chain of Sterling Farms markets across the metro area, including one in eastern New Orleans. — Allman