Incorporated in 1938, Circle Foods was New Orleans’ first black-owned and operated grocery, founded at a time when African Americans were not allowed to shop in other parts of the city. It became more than a supermarket—it was a community gathering place which housed a pharmacy, a doctor’s office and a dentist, and even sold school uniforms.
But above all, Circle Foods was known for fresh, locally-grown produce. In 2005, catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, which literally drowned the store, left the once proud icon shuttered, and residents without a nearby source for fresh groceries.
Owner Dwayne Boudreaux vowed to reopen, but for years he was unable to secure adequate funding. This problem was resolved in 2012, when Circle Foods was one of the first projects funded through Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, a HOPE-managed partnership with the City of New Orleans and the Food Trust that strives to ensure access to healthy food in low-income areas. The Initiative’s one million dollar loan will allow Boudreaux to finally open the 22,000-foot grocery, providing fresh food—and hope—to a neighborhood still in dire need of both.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, longtime residents fondly recalled spending time with their parents and neighbors at this local icon.
Circle Foods re-opened in early 2014, and has resumed its special role of nourishing lives and the economy in the Treme neighborhood. Soon, HOPE will open a credit union branch inside Circle Foods to offer responsible and affordable financial services to its customers, including saving and checking accounts, as well as mortgages and business loans.
“HOPE gave us the traction we needed. It knew how important Circle Foods was—and will be—to this community.”—Dwayne Boudreaux
(Date of loan: 2012. Date of story publication: 2014)