“Up and Running”
The Gulf Coast area that was decimated by Hurricane Katrina is slowly recovering. To say that there is a return to normalcy would be an overstatement, though in certain areas that were not severely affected that is happening. Generally speaking, though, things are still pretty messy, especially in New Orleans.
Coincidentally, last spring we profiled the top beverage alcohol operation in New Orleans, Martin Wine Cellar, long known in the trade as an innovator among retailers.
A few weeks ago, I received this e-mail:
I am a liquor retailer in Wilmington, DE, and I have a subscription to your magazine that I always look forward to reading. In the May/June edition you did an entire article about the liquor industry in New Orleans and focused on Mr. Cedric Martin and his retail store that was started by his father in the 1940s. After the tragedy that has overcome New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf area I wanted to write you and ask you if you could do a follow-up story about Mr. Martin and let everyone know what his plans will be for the future. I know, as the third generation of a family-owned business, how devastating this must be for Mr. Martin. We need to know how much damage his store suffered and what we can do to help him get back on his feet.
Becky Angeline, Toll Gate Liquors, Wilmington, DE
After weeks of trying by phone and e-mail, I finally got through, and though Cedric was not available, I was able to speak to Cheryl Lemoine, the operation’s marketing manager.
“The Metarie store [a suburb of New Orleans] has been up and running since the beginning of October,” she said. “We are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and we’re about to re-open again on Sundays. Business is really good. A lot of customers are doing gourmet deli-to-go, because of the lack of refrigeration in some areas. The biggest problem has been staffing, because so many people have left. But more people are coming back every day.”
On the other hand, the original uptown New Orleans store was flooded out and looted. “It will take at least another month to clean it up,” Lemoine said. “Then it can be renovated, hopefully, and come back better than ever.” The company warehouse survived, since it was situated on relatively high ground; however, the offices are all gone. “We have more than 20 people working out of the tasting room in the Metarie store,” she said.
In the meantime, Cedric Martin has been busy. He’s opening a new Martin Wine Cellar in early November in Mandeville, just north of Lake Ponchatrain. And, by the end of the year, he’s planning to open another store in Baton Rouge, where so many of the displaced population have moved.
We all wish Cedric – and others throughout the stricken areas – good luck and a happy New Year.