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Open in the Ninth 

You'll notice that Mark Brink loves fixing cars as soon as you pull up to his business, Mark's Muffler Shop & Recycling (5229 St. Claude Ave., 944-7733).

"It's my hobby," Brink says of his passion/business.

A gleaming, crimson 1949 Ford F-1 pick-up truck sits parked outside, a shiny yet stark contrast to the hurricane-ravaged lower Ninth Ward neighborhood around it. But when you consider that Brink had to restore the truck after Katrina's floodwaters smashed the vehicle through the garage door at his home and that he is still bravely optimistic that the area is "slowly but surely coming back around," the truck becomes symbolic. And Brink is proud to say that his was "the first business to reopen in the Ninth Ward after the storm."

Brink only briefly considered relocating his business, which took in about 8 feet of water, and reopened with generators in mid-October 2005. For Brink, it was a sound business decision. For starters, the shop has a sense of history, owned and operated in the same location for the past 42 years; its previous owner is a friend of Brink's. Plus, over the years, Brink has developed a loyal customer base, people who bring their cars to him no matter where they live. The lack of a similar shop in a stretch from Paris Avenue in St. Bernard Parish to Canal Street in the heart of the city is another reason to keep the same location.

The fact that so many people were forced to buy new vehicles after Katrina adds to the recent upturn in business, as many of them bring their newly acquired cars and trucks to Brink for one of his specialties: installing dual-exhaust systems, which provide greater engine power and improved gas mileage.

"Business has been good, steady," Brink says. He then adds with a laugh -- recalling the hectic months after the storm, when he was without the services of displaced longtime employee Paul Davis -- that business was "sometimes even too good."

Rebuilding New Orleans
The Gulf Coast Building and Remodeling Expo Oct. 20-22 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center will feature hundreds of exhibits and a host of seminars and hands-on demonstrations from exhibitors and government agencies to help consumers with rebuilding efforts. For more information, call (630) 241-9865.

click to enlarge Mark Brink's Mark's Muffler Shop & Recycling was the first - business to reopen in the Ninth Ward after Hurricane - Katrina. - FRANK ETHERIDGE
  • Frank Etheridge
  • Mark Brink's Mark's Muffler Shop & Recycling was the first business to reopen in the Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina.
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