NEW ORLEANS, LA – Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu joined owner Dwayne Boudreaux and key partners to reopen the iconic Circle Food Store at 1522 St. Bernard Avenue. The historic market, which had been closed since 2005 due to damage sustained during Hurricane Katrina, underwent an $8 million renovation. The new store will once again serve as an important retail anchor in the Seventh Ward neighborhood, providing fresh food options and creating more than 65 local jobs.
“Circle Food Store is back and better than ever,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “Dwayne Boudreaux committed to bringing this iconic store back to the Seventh Ward community and we made it our business to bring the people and resources together to make it happen. This is another example of what a successful public, private and non-profit partnership looks like.”
Click here to view photos from today's grand opening.
The Circle Food Store first opened in 1938 as the city’s first African-American owned-and-operated grocery store. On top of being a full service grocery, it was a warm and welcoming community hub for generations of New Orleans residents.
“After more than eight years, I’m thrilled that we can open the doors of Circle Food Store to customers again,” said Boudreaux, who took over the store in 1991. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without our many partners, including Mayor Landrieu and the City of New Orleans and the Berger Co. which provided invaluable guidance through the funding process.”
The project received funding from several sources to finance the $8 million dollar restoration including a $1 million loan from the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI) with a forgivable amount of $500,000, a $1.7 million loan from First NBC Bank, a $1 million “PROP” loan from the Louisiana Office of Community Development and $2.2 million in New Market Tax Credit Equity. The business also received 2.2 million in Historic Tax Credit Equity after successfully registering as a federal landmark in 2012. In addition to the FFRI loan, the City provided a $100,000 Economic Development Fund (EDF) grant to the project.
To ensure a robust local workforce, Boudreaux teamed up with the City’s Office of Workforce Development and JOB1 Business and Career Solutions. The City assisted Circle Food Store with the permitting process and provided recruiting, hiring and training services, including organizing and hosting two recruiting events on site at JOB1. To date, Boudreaux has hired 66 staff members, five of which were recruited from the NOLA FOR LIFE Jobs & Opportunities Expo held in October 2013. In total, 95 percent of the staff members are local hires.
“We’re committed to investing in our local workforce and providing residents with opportunities to succeed,” said Aimee Quirk, advisor to the Mayor for economic development, a role in which she oversees the FFRI and Economic Development Fund. “The reopening of the Circle Food Store is a shining example of Mayor Landrieu’s dedication to creating jobs and providing access to high-quality food and retail in every neighborhood in the city. This restoration will be a spark that ignites other revitalization in the neighborhood.”
Designed by John C. Williams Architects with the McDonnel Group as the general contractor, the renovation included interior upgrades to give the historic building an open, modern feel and the removal of drop ceilings to reveal wooden trusses and allow in natural light. The building’s exterior, with its distinctive curved façade, also received fresh white and green paint. The store also has a new exterior sign.
Among the store’s features are a prominent produce section, a pharmacy, and a new delicatessen that will serve breakfast and lunch daily. Also new are specially branded products, including Circle Food Store hot sauces and coffee.
"This is a great day for the people of the Seventh Ward and for the continued recovery of New Orleans," said Kristy Nichols, Louisiana Commissioner of Administration. "Having Circle Foods back means converting the blight that was here for too long to its old familiar charm; it brings groceries close to home, and it creates jobs for the people in the neighborhood. It’s a great example of a public and private partnership helping drive the recovery in Louisiana."
Ashton J. Ryan Jr., President and CEO, First NBC Bank, said, “First NBC Bank is very excited to be both lender and tax credit investor in the re-opening of a great tradition in our City, the Circle Food store. We are a community bank and our focus is on the economic health and viability of our local neighborhoods. Institutions such as Circle Foods are critical to creating the infrastructure which our neighborhoods require to grow and remain vibrant and thus contribute to the overall strength of our City, which can be no more than the neighborhoods which make it up. It is indeed a great day for the 7th Ward/Treme community.”
Bill Bynum, Chief Executive Officer of Hope Enterprise Corporation, and a partner in the FFRI said, “We are proud to help make possible the rebirth of Circle Foods. By partnering the Landrieu administration, the Food Trust and entrepreneurs like Mr. Boudreaux, we are eradicating food deserts and strengthening the economy across New Orleans. We look forward to opening a Hope Credit Union branch within Circle Foods in the near future to provide additional services that will further enhance the neighborhood.”
Yael Lehmann, Executive Director of The Food Trust, and a partner in the FFRI said, "The re-opening of Circle Food Store – a beloved neighborhood institution known for its fantastic, fresh produce – is proof that the City’s efforts to increase access to healthy food is succeeding. "The store will help to improve the health of neighborhood residents and provide jobs as it did for decades before the storm."
City Council President Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson said, “Words can’t express how excited we are about Circle Food coming back strong! They are such a unique tradition in our culture and such a needed venue for our constituents. We have been waiting patiently for their triumphant and welcome return!”
Councilmember-at-Large Stacy Head said, “It is absolutely wonderful to celebrate the return of the historic, iconic Circle Food Store! This is yet another milestone in our city’s recovery and I applaud everyone involved in its rebirth.”
District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer said, “This is a great day for residents in the Treme, the Seventh Ward and citywide who have been looking forward to the return of the Circle Food Store. As a promoter of the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, I am thrilled that the program played a key role in making today’s re-opening a reality. Circle Food Store will now be back in service, creating health and equity in the surrounding neighborhoods.”
District D Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said, “When I was growing up, the Circle Food Store wasn’t just a grocery store, it was the center of this community. We’ve been anxiously waiting for it to reopen, and I’m excited the day is finally here. The bell peppers are back, and I can’t wait to see the Easter candy display in a few months!”
District E Councilmember James A. Gray II said, "For a generation of New Orleanians, The Circle Food Store catered to every need. A family could shop for groceries, pick up school uniforms, see a doctor and fill prescriptions. The reopening of this iconic business is a triumph over the tragedy of Katrina and another milestone in the recovery of this great city. It is also a poignant, teachable moment for our children. At the heart of this story is an African American businessman who had courage and determination and succeeded despite daunting odds."