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Hurricane Katrina: After the Storm

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: June 16, 2008, from the August 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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“Since we last talked, I really felt that once we got back, the rehabilitation of the city would happen much quicker. So many things came into play,” she explains. “October through December, you probably could shoot a cannon in the front foyer of Shine—that’s how dead it was. There still are vendors that we owe money to from before Katrina, and we lost about $150,000 in revenue coming back, being closed and then reopening. We’re down 90% in business. It’s really a bad situation. The local and national governments haven’t been any help at all. We lost $11,000 in inventory that we had to repurchase because insurance didn’t cover it. Our insurance company told us that our electrical box literally would have had to have been torn off the pole in order for us to get any reimbursement—the product sitting in the heat for three months didn’t count.”

At the time of the interview, Blum confessed that unless a loan from the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) or other funds were to come through, Blum and Cindy Cocke, co-owner, would have to close Shine within 60 days. Luckily, things are looking up for her and her two businesses. In late May, Blum and Cocke signed loan paperwork from the SBA and are feeling a little relief. Also, due to May’s French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, it turned out to be a good month. However, this is only a small battle won in the larger war of hardship in the area. Ironically, the French Quarter was mostly spared from the wrath of Katrina, but now is facing an equally damaging outlook due to the lack of tourism on which its small businesses thrived.

One year later: The Garden District

In the Garden District of New Orleans, however, business is good. According to Kim Dudek, owner of Belladonna Day Spa, her sales numbers are comparable to where they were last year, even with shortened spa hours and fewer business days, due to staffing issues. She can attribute this only to the lighter schedule creating a sense of urgency among the clientele. “Our prescheduled appointments are through the roof now,” adds Dudek.

Because of the spa’s location—a more residential area than that of Shine—she is able to count on more local spa-goers as they slowly return to their homes. “We have been very lucky,” says Dudek. However, she isn’t taking her good fortune for granted. By utilizing Belladonna’s massive retail area, she is focusing on helping the community. Whether it is creating and selling T-shirts that raise morale and funds or offering a “Be Prepared” booklet, now that the 2006 hurricane season has begun, Dudek certainly doesn’t shirk her civic duty. In fact, in her very limited free time, she is a dedicated volunteer for the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This commitment involves the regular feeding of and searching for abandoned animals in the most unwelcoming parts of the city.

One year later: The rebuild

All who have lived through and are adapting to this tragedy agree on one thing: The rehabilitation efforts have only just begun. According to Blum, “People either think we are fine or we are ruined.” It is this thought process that threatens to slow momentum on relief efforts for the area. Money and help continue to be needed desperately. Those who operate the NCA Disaster Relief Fund/Katrina probably understand this the best.