In September, when we asked three of our correspondents to track the progress of three New Orleans businesses that were shut down by Hurricane Katrina, neither we, the reporters, nor the business owners had any idea what to expect. By the third week of September, with Hurricane Rita approaching the Gulf Coast, we began to suspect that we weren't exactly going to be writing a feel-good story.
That is why we are so pleased -- and pleasantly surprised -- to be able to share with you the impressive progress all three of these businesses have made. Every one of them has reopened, and sales are even shaping up to be unusually high at two of the companies, Tuff Equipment Rentals and Peter A. Mayer Advertising. The third business, Loretta's Authentic Pralines, relied on foot traffic through the city's French Quarter, so it faces a tougher comeback. Owner Loretta Harrison still hasn't heard whether her loan request to the Small Business Administration has been approved. But she's moving ahead, setting up a café in front of her warehouse and whipping up breakfasts and lunches for the FEMA workers now thronging the streets.
None of these businesses is in the clear. Some of these establishments are still waiting for insurance payments to arrive and for loans to come through. They're waiting to see if their employees will be able to find housing and return to the city. They don't have much idea when, or if, their customers will come back to New Orleans.
Nonetheless, like many other businesses hit by hurricanes, they've all made remarkable strides in a very short amount of time. As the year draws to a close, we wish no less for the other business owners who are struggling to rebuild, and, indeed, for the city of New Orleans itself.
Editor, BusinessWeek SmallBiz