The Times-Picayune, November 22, 2010
The recently opened Lakeview Grocery on Harrison Ave. has cemented that street as Lakeview’s commercial center, marking a huge milestone in the neighborhood’s post-Hurricane Katrina development.
A venture of Robért Resources LLC, the entity that also operates Robért Fresh Markets, the store opened in October and occupies the former site of Lakeview Fine Foods, which had been vacant for five years.
Father Mike O’Rourke sat at a window table at NOLA Beans on Harrison Avenue in Lakeview, having just celebrated Mass across the street at St. Dominic. He sipped coffee and enjoyed muffins even as parishioners were departing the 8 a.m. service and others were arriving for the next.
O’Rourke said there is no doubt in his mind that Harrison Avenue is back as the neighborhood commercial center.
“We have almost everything we need here now,” he said. “But having the grocery store open, that’s big.”
According to Lakeview Civic Improvement Association President Glenn Stoudt, the new grocery store is an essential building block for neighborhood recovery.
“Having a grocery store open again on Harrison Avenue is of course practical and convenient,” Stoudt said. “But it’s also an emotional touchstone, part of a community that defines and clarifies it, where you see your neighbors and friends and it’s all OK, once again.”
It wasn’t clear after Hurricane Katrina that things would ever be OK again. But the Harrison Avenue commercial stretch between Canal Boulevard and Orleans Avenue has been steadily rising from the devastation of Katrina-related flooding, anchored by St. Dominic Catholic church and St. Paul’s Episcopal at the corner of Canal. Since then, a string of commercial enterprises reopened, led by banks and followed by restaurants including Reginelli’s, Lakeview Deli, the Steak Knife, Lakeview Harbor and Mondo, Susan Spicer’s new restaurant that opened a few months ago.
Taking the place of Magic Laundry and Cleaners is NOLA Beans, a locally owned and operated cafe and restaurant that complements the Seattle-based Starbucks franchise a block away. Lakeview Veterinary Hospital occupies a facility just off Harrison on Memphis, Little Miss Muffin offers retail opportunities and Rite Aid provides a pharmacy and serves additional shopping needs. Need a neighborhood cleaners? There’s Young’s.
With a new public library under construction at Harrison and Canal and the Edward Hynes Charter School under construction at Harrison and Argonne, the only missing puzzle piece was a neighborhood grocery. Now, according to Municipal Court Judge Paul Sens, Lakeview Grocery fills that niche.
“Harrison Avenue really is the heart of Lakeview, and my wife and I prefer to spend our money here in Orleans Parish, so this is where we shop,” Sens said as he loaded grocery bags into his vehicle.
His wife, Ann, said she no longer needs to drive to Robert E. Lee for groceries and that “LG,” as the store refers to itself, offers amenities she can’t find elsewhere.
“The fresh produce is a big draw, but there are a lot of prepared foods that make it easy on people if they don’t want to cook,” she said. “And I think they’re trying hard with that little cafe to make the store a neighborhood meeting place, where people can relax and visit with each other.”
The “cafe” is Harrison Cove, a small restaurant with outdoor tables at the Memphis Street end of the store. It has a separate entry from the main store, in case a shopper just wants a sandwich and drinks instead of rotisserie chickens, bakery goods, wines and food staples.
O’Rourke said the neighborhood has waited a long time for the grocery store, but that growth continued nonetheless even as plans developed.
“Our parish has grown 40 percent in the past two years, if you can believe that,” he said. “Some people live outside of the neighborhood since Katrina and come back here to go to church, but mainly the people we see are the ones who returned to the neighborhood to live or are new to the neighborhood. Now we have everything we need right here on Harrison. The only thing missing is a gas station.”
According to Stoudt, O’Rourke won’t have to wait for long, for a gas station is on the way.
“We never doubted, from even that grim period in the fall of 2005, that we would have what we have today, thanks to all who have who have believed and invested,” Stoudt said.