Army vet uses life savings to open a store in poverty-plagued New Orleans community
Burnell Colton, Army vet, used his personal savings to renovate a building damaged by Hurricane Katrina and opened a store.
Reported by Kacie Whaley
An Army veteran has opened a market in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans in an attempt to jump start repairing the community that was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina.
Burnell Colton said he has spent his life savings trying to recover a building that had been damaged since the devastating hurricane hit in 2005. He renovated the building until it looked as good as new and called the area, Caffin Avenue Plaza.
First, he opened a barber shop at the site. Then, this spring, he introduced a snowball stand to his native neighborhood. With limited grocery options in the Lower Ninth Ward, Colton is now pleased to present his community with a new market.
WWL-TV was present for the ribbon cutting ceremony of Colton’s store, named Lower 9th Ward Market. The market owner was ecstatic that he was witnessing his long-awaited dream taking form.
“I put everything into this here, and I hope people will see this here, and want to come back to the Lower Ninth Ward, and revitalize it,” Colton told a WWL reporter. Colton said he had been working toward opening the small market for about four and a half years, so he is hopeful that his community will support the business now that it is finally available for business.
“This is a major plus for this community,” said Vanessa Gueringer, of the nonprofit organization, A Community Voice. “This is again one of the pieces of the puzzle that says to the Greater New Orleans area that this community is not going to give up.”
Residents are anticipating the success of the market not only for Colton’s sake, but also because it may encourage others to come back to damaged parts of New Orleans and rebuild.
“It’s a beginning, said a neighbor and market customer. “Maybe somebody else can get the idea, and we’ll just keep going. Maybe I’ll live long enough to see it get better than what it was.”
For now, Colton will run the market, which he proudly mentions is stocked with baby food, toiletries, milk, eggs, cheese, and everything in between. But in the future, he expects to hire employees, expand the store, and open more businesses within Caffin Avenue Plaza.