To honor the year anniversary of Katrina, Inc.com checked in with local businesses representing a cross section of industries: a lumberyard, a health clinic, a furniture manufacturer and an art gallery. These are their stories of survival.
Riverside Lumber has been a part of Orleans Parish since 1920. Owned and operated by the Hayden family, Riverside was virtually wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. But determination and a construction boom following the storm have the company headed in the right direction.
As told to Melanie Brooks
We came back after Hurricane Katrina to total loss. The roof of our mill, main office, and storage facility were caved in and had to be replaced. Our buildings were flooded with seven feet of water. We tried to salvage what we could — which wasn't much. All of our equipment was ruined. We had to remove all the debris ourselves because the government wouldn't do it. The hoops we've had to jump through are unbelievable. Local church groups have been the most help.
We have been surviving on personal lines of credit that my brother, cousin, and I took out. We filed for an SBA commercial loan in September and have yet to see a dime. We've been up and running since October. For the first three months, there was no electricity, no phone lines — it was ugly. We've been working out of a small, temporary trailer next door to our site and renting a storage facility. It took six months to start getting mail.
It's been hard to get building permits to rebuild our mill, office, and storage facility because no one in the city government could figure out the new level to build at. We're currently pouring the slab for our mill, which will sit about three feet above where it was originally built.
We went right back to work after the storm and our business has doubled. Our sales are only going to increase because people are still waiting for insurance claims and for this year's hurricane season to pass to build new homes.
The best advice I can give out to other small businesses is to not wait for the government to do anything for you — they take too long. The only reason we're still in business is because we didn't sit around and wait for government support.
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