Filed Under:  Business, Local, News

Circle Food Store moves closer to finally reopening its doors

6th August 2012   ·   0 Comments

The Circle Food Store, an iconic 7th Ward grocery store where several generations of customers could once pay their utility and water bills, visit a doctor, buy school uniforms and find some of the biggest bell peppers in town, moved a step closer to reopening last week when it was announced that the sore has received a major funding boost from the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI). The Circle Food Store, located at 1522 St. Bernard Avenue (corner of St. Bernard and North Claiborne avenues), was first incorporated in 1938 and for years was a pillar of the community before it closed following Hurricane Katrina. The total estimated cost for The Circle Food Store to re-open is $9.2 million, with the FFRI offering a loan of $1 million, with a forgivable amount of $500,000. The FFRI loan will allow the store to re-open. This project will create an estimated 75 new jobs, many directed to residents of the 7th Ward and bordering Tremé neighborhood.

“The Circle Food Store served the 7th Ward and thousands of New Orleanians for decades, and as the first African American-owned and operated grocery store in our city, it is a huge piece of our history,” New Orleans Mayor Landrieu said Thursday. “Awarding this FFRI loan is an important step toward promoting a better quality of life for residents in this neighborhood and fostering healthier lifestyle habits for all of our citizens. Projects like this create jobs, generate taxes, bring vacant properties back into commerce and reinvigorate neighborhoods. We look forward to more fresh food store openings in neighborhoods throughout our city.”

In addition to fresh food, the store has also historically provided a pharmacy, a doctor, a dentist, a chiropractor, check cashing and banking, and a place to buy school uniforms. The store was an early version of one-stop shopping. The building was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina and subsequently closed.

The Fresh Food Retailer Ini­tiative, launched in March 2011, plans to award $14 million worth of low-cost, flexible financing to enable vendors, such as The Circle Food Store, to open, renovate or expand retail outlets that sell fresh fruits and vegetables in lower-income areas of the city where access to fresh foods has been lacking.

In addition to the FFRI loan, the city will provide a $100,000 Economic Development Fund (EDF) grant, which was previously awarded in 2009, to the project.

The Circle Food Store is owned by Dwayne Boudreaux, a native New Orleanian who officially took over the store in 1991.

Boudreaux said, “Circle Food served the community for many years and I look forward to bringing this institution back to serve the community once again. The city’s support of Circle through the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative and the Economic Development Fund will help me do just that.”

“HOPE is excited about this latest success in our efforts to foster healthy lifestyles and economic development in communities like those in the seventh ward,” said HOPE CEO Bill Bynum. “Circle Foods has been an iconic part of this community and it’s great to see this local merchant serving the needs of neighborhood families and creating jobs once again.”

“The New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative and the re-opening of The Circle Food Store are the realization of years of hard work by the people of New Orleans,” said The Food Trust executive director Yael Lehmann. “We look forward to continuing our work with a community so committed to the health of its residents and the health of its neighborhoods.”

Aimee Quirk, advisor to the Mayor for economic development, oversees the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative and Economic Develop­ment Fund for the City. Quirk said, “Our administration is committed to promoting and providing access to quality food and retail in every neighborhood in our city. FFRI supports the physical health of our citizens and the economic health of our neighborhoods. We are pleased that this FFRI loan and EDF grant are available to help The Circle Food Store bring fresh food, new jobs and private investment into the 7th Ward.”

“Access to fresh foods and produce is vital to improving the health of our residents. The FFRI program is improving the quality of life for our residents and will make New Orleans a healthier city,” said City Health Commis­sioner Dr. Karen DeSalvo.

District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer said, “I am absolutely thrilled that Circle Food Store will be back in operation and serving the community. My constituents in the Tremé, the Seventh Ward and residents city wide have not forgotten how Circle Food Store was an outlet for everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to school uniforms before Katrina. As a strong advocate for the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, I am glad to see that this program played a key role in securing enough funding to put this irreplaceable community resource and iconic building back into commerce.”

City Council President Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson remarked, “The Fresh Food Initiative loan is wonderful news for the Circle Food Store and surrounding community! Congratulations to the Admini­stration and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, District “C” Councilmember Kristin Pal­mer and her staff, and the New Orleans Business Alliance. It ‘took a village’ and was well worth it!”

“The corner of St. Bernard and North Claiborne avenues will always belong to Circle Food Store. No hurricane could wash away the 7th Ward’s, nor the entire city’s, affinity for this historic grocery. Therefore, it is with great joy that we celebrate the FFRI loan and the redevelopment of this great New Orleans institution,” said Councilmember at-Large Stacy Head.

District A Councilmember Susan G. Guidry said, “The Circle was always more than a food store with fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood – more than a traditional marketplace. It was a community hub, and in returning, it will again serve our residents and spur new economic development in the surrounding neighborhood.”

“For generations, the Circle Food Store at Claiborne and St. Bernard avenues was the shopping mecca for the 6th and 7th Wards,” said District B Councilmember Diana E. Bajoie. “Under those iconic arches neighbors from Orleans Avenue to Elysian Fields and beyond bought everything from fresh produce to school uniforms, and even visited the doctor. A full-service grocery store is crucial to the repopulation of any neighborhood. Thanks to the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, the new Circle Food Store will be the first step in a revitalized retail district for Faubourg Tremé and nearby neighborhoods.”

“This is a personal moment for me, as I lived at 1465 North Claiborne Avenue, next to Houston’s School of Music, just up the street from the Circle Food Store,” said District D Council­member Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. “The return of the Circle Food Store, a cornerstone in the African-American community, will provide an economic boost and revitalize the neighborhood. It will once again serve as the place to get fresh produce, wild game, Easter candy, school uniforms and much more. Most importantly, it will serve as a community meeting place to socialize while ‘making groceries.’ Our neighborhood anchor is returning and I could not be happier.”

District E Councilmember Ernest Charbonnet said, “The Circle Food Store is as much a part of the history of New Orleans, specifically the 7th Ward, as St. Augustine and McDonogh 35. The granting of $1 million through the city’s Fresh Food Initiative is certain to revitalize an historic landmark in a storied and famous area of the city. I am excited to see this building return to commerce as it proves the City of New Orleans’ commitment to moving this city forward while maintaining community staples of the past.”

This article was originally published in the August 6, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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