Morgan Packard and Sarah Ravits n Photographs by Jeffery JohnstonServing as chairman of the Housing & Redevelopment Task Force for the Louisiana Recovery Authority, co-chair of St. Bernard’s Citizen Recovery Committee and vice president of the New Orleans Zephyrs – and all of that before his “real” job as an attorney and partner at Leger, Shaw & DeSue – would wear out most anyone, but not Walter Leger, Jr. A man not content to rest on his laurels, before Katrina struck, Leger was working on growing his law firm; after Katrina his goals also included, “surviving and aiding in the recovery of St. Bernard, New Orleans and the state, including generating a Development of Housing Plan for Louisiana.” Now, Leger hopes to, “develop a consensus” on the Housing and Redevelopment Plan and to, “engage New Orleans and parish officials in long term planning,” as he looks forward to the, “distribution of Road Home Homeowners assistance.” As Leger says, “I am determined to aid in the recovery and redevelopment in any way, 24/7, until done, with all of my abilities without condition or hesitation … This is our home. What we do will be our legacy and our heritage.” — Morgan Packard
In 2005, Laura Mogg, aka Little MaSCARa, helped start the Big Easy Roller Girls – the first (and only) all-female, flat-track roller derby in the city. After Katrina, over 80 percent of the team was displaced or unable to commit to practices. Rebuilding in spring ’06 was a challenge; fundraising, finding sponsors and locating areas to practice still remain difficult. Despite these hardships, the team will be holding its first bout Sept. 16 at Mardi Gras World. Though their sport involves bruises, brightly colored lipstick and layers of protective padding that “may or may not smell like sweat,” these teammates work at vastly different day jobs – including bartending and practicing law – and still manage to meet at least three times a week to train for tournaments. The roller derby started in the 1930s and gained popularity into the ‘60s. Recently, the sport was revived in Texas and has spread across the country. There are now over 30 leagues in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, and the number of teams is growing. “We get to be a part of something that is making history,” says Kelly Palmer, aka Pussycat Moxie. “Everyone is really excited to be involved.” For more information visit www.bigeasyrollergirls.com. – Sarah Ravits
Director of the Gene Therapy Program at Louisiana State University’s Health Sciences Center since 2005, Professor of Medicine, Alistair Ramsay has helped, with other researchers in the program, raise in excess of $27 million in federal research dollars since 2002. At the moment, he and his program are “mid-way” through the process of taking some of their “new vaccines for infectious diseases,” into use; a process that includes taking the new vaccine or therapy, “right through from the initial idea, through research and development and into tests in patients before its eventual widespread use.” In fact, just before Ramsay moved to New Orleans from Australia in 2001, he was a member of a research team that developed a potential new vaccine for HIV/AIDS from its concept stage, “right through to where it is currently being trialed in humans – a process that took over 10 years of concerted work. An enormously exciting and rewarding experience that we are reproducing here in New Orleans,” says Ramsay. Ramsay also hopes to restore the Gene Therapy Program to its full capacity and to grow beyond their pre-Katrina size by “further recruitment of talented individuals and winning further major federal funding.” — M.P. Donald Link recently opened his second successful restaurant in New Orleans. Called Cochon, which means “pig” in French, the restaurant is a tribute to Cajun culture, especially to its traditional foods. Growing up in Lake Charles, Link began cooking at the age of 15 with the help of his grandparents. He attended the California Culinary Academy while working in some of San Francisco’s best restaurants. Six years later, he returned to Louisiana, where he opened the award-winning Herbsaint, with chef Susan Spicer, in the warehouse district in New Orleans. During the aftermath of Katrina, Link faced difficulties in finding a new place to live with his family. For a while, he worked “sixteen hour days, six days a week” in order to re-open Herbsaint and open Cochon. The award-winning chef and father of two, is also working on a book about his food experiences growing up in Louisiana, which will focus on his grandparents’ cooking, fishing, shrimping and other life experiences. Though he is undoubtedly busy, he finds time to relax on Sunday evenings, when he can cook dinner with help from his 6-year-old daughter, and dream and plan his next restaurant venture. — S.R. Expanding “slowly,” Pete Breen and Jenny Tice are the co-owners of the Joint on 801 Poland Ave., and the soon-to-be-open takeout version of the same, located on the 4000 block of Magazine St. Though Katrina “definitely changed our focus and direction,” Tice believes that their goals have changed, “in a good way” and they hope, “to expand our catering services with the new location.” With Breen as the “Pit Boss,” Tice making the side items and both working as, “cooks, servers, dishwashers, janitors, trash people, bookkeepers, etc.” Breen and Tice turn out barbeque so good, that this past year they were named Critics Choice Winner at the Crescent City Farmers Market Barbeque Cook-off. Though their restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m., their day starts at 7:45 a.m., with Breen starting the fire and preparing the meats to be smoked as Tice runs the errands that need to be done and then joins Breen to prepare the side items before opening. They cook all day long, and while they continue to work and grow, their goal for the short term is to “find more leisure time,” most likely through “enjoying Saints season.” — M.P. After spending ten years in Chicago, Jen Powell decided to return to her southern roots. As founder of Sip Wine Market, Powell says her job is to “pick really great wines that people can have fun drinking.” Her shop has become highly successful over the last year, perhaps due to its all-are-welcome attitude; here, wine selection is not limited to connoisseurs, though they are most certainly welcome. In an alternative to many wine cellars, at Sip, wines are grouped according to flavor, such as fruity, smoky and floral. Groups of students and business partners alike can be found in the shop trying out different types of wine, many of them for under $15 a bottle. The store has become such a success that another licensed location has opened in Mid-City, on 3143 Ponce de Leon, and Powell’s ambitions – along with her co-owners Daphne Lesage and Gina Stango – do not stop there. They have their eyes set on opening a “new venture” in the French Quarter. “It has been a great year,” she says. “I have learned a lot about myself and what it is like to be a first time business owner.” — S.R. The new director of the Louisiana State Museum, David Kahn, holds a large, partially folded piece of cloth. It’s tattered, torn and water damaged. Despite the obvious destruction the item has endured, one can easily tell exactly what this faded cloth represents: Kahn is holding an American flag that flew in front of Charity Hospital during Hurricane Katrina. Much like New Orleans, the flag suffered tremendous damage, but didn’t truly lose its underlying meaning. Kahn moved to New Orleans from Connecticut where he served as executive director of that state’s historical society museum. Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu calls him the “best director in the country.” Kahn has visited New Orleans for the past 25 years and he says, “It is a great honor to be able to live and work here at this extremely important moment in the history of the city and state.” He will oversee several sites around New Orleans as well as other areas of Louisiana. One of the biggest projects he will take on is the Hurricane Katrina exhibition, scheduled to open in January 2008. The multimedia exhibit will take up about 8,000 square feet and will be filled with artifacts that weathered the storm, such as this flag. Please see lsm.crt.state.la.us, or call 568-6968 for more information. — S.R.
Seven days prior to Katrina, Les Hirsch began his tenure as president and chief executive officer of Touro Infirmary. Sept. 28, Hirsch re-opened Touro 27 days after having to close it; for many months after, Touro served as the only acute care hospital serving adults in the New Orleans area. Hirsch says that his, “biggest challenge has been to forge a ‘new Touro’ … in terms of recovery and in the context of planning for Touro’s next ten years … While we are 154 years old, in some respects we are like a new hospital as we go through the growing pains associated with reopening.” Selected as a 2006 role model by the Young Leadership Council, and with many, “exciting plans” in development to “serve the healthcare needs of our community,” personally Hirsch is looking forward to “settling into the community” with his wife Carol in their newly purchased home. “My life has been enriched,” Hirsch says, “by having had an opportunity to be part of the rebuilding of this great city.” — M.P. When Monica Kalozdi climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest on June 4, 2005, “literally not knowing every day if I would live or die,” she expected many of the hardships that parallel becoming one of less than 100 women to have completed the climb. What she didn’t expect was to find herself on the roof of her Lakewood South home less than three months later. Kalozdi and her husband Jeno have owned Kalencom for 35 years – a specialty-sewn manufacturing company specializing in juvenile products and packaging. “My favorite aspect is the creativity,” Kalozdi says, “Colors, shapes and textures are a real passion.” Katrina took their home, the roof off their business and most of their inventory. Kalozdi and her husband worked 20-hour days moving their company, and many of their employees and their families, to Florida, then back to New Orleans to re-open on June 1. Kalozdi wasn’t about to give up on anything, “I didn’t want to let Katrina steal my dream of completing the seven summits,” she says. Kalozdi completed her last summit, Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia, on Aug. 9, becoming one of less than 150 people, and very few women, who have done so. – M.P. Recently promoted to chief medical officer and vice president for Medical Affairs at Touro Infirmary, Kevin Jordan, M.D. is already making a difference at Touro, and plans to expand these changes to alter the entire healthcare system of Louisiana. With Jordan’s guidance, the medical staff at Touro has increased by 90 physicians. This emergency room doctor is also quick to point out that Louisiana is the only state in the country that has a “charity” healthcare system, one that he defines as a “separate system for folks that are not funded.” Dr. Jordan says a great challenge lies in “getting the state … to understand the need to financially support Katrina-stuck physicians.” “We spend the most money per capita on healthcare, out of all the states.” He adds, “But we have the worst outcomes of all healthcare systems. Something is wrong. I get to contribute to fixing that.” Facing these problems head on, Jordan makes clinical rounds in the morning, attends meetings throughout the day, and continuously solves clinical and administrative problems that arise. Though he usually sleeps less than five hours a night, Jordan says he is excited to be facing a “unique opportunity to design a healthcare system from the ground up.” — S.R. A painter of representations of New Orleans’ houses and neighborhoods, Terrance Osborne had no idea that Katrina would strike when he painted “Post Hurricane Blues” in 2002: a haunting image of New Orleans-esque houses stacked one on top of the other, four high, and still glowing with life. Then, three weeks into evacuation, Osborne painted “Post Katrina Blues;” a horizontal maelstrom of color in which six different styles of New Orleans houses float along at angles in the receding flood water. He has also finished two pieces of political importance: one, commissioned by Lt. Gov. Landrieu, is used for the Official State Certificate of Louisiana and “Dawning of Change” commissioned by Mayor Nagin during his campaign. A NOCCA and Xavier graduate who used to teach art in the Talented Arts Visual Program for New Orleans Parish School System, Osborne now produces and sells art full time, “I wanted to prosper in spite of Katrina … I also have always wanted to paint full time: both goals were met.” Looking forward to “showing the world how beautiful New Orleans is,” through his paintings, Osborne also hopes to produce a large-scale mural in the near future. See his paintings at www.galleryosborne.com. — M.P.
As the new assignment manager for CNN’s Gulf Coast Bureau, Belinda Hernandez has a wide range of responsibilities. She wakes up early, and the first thing she does is flip on the television to watch the morning news. Hernandez must take care of all editorial content covered by the bureau, and her eyes are always open for new stories. She is involved in logistical and editorial planning when correspondents, such as Anderson Cooper, visit New Orleans. She’s also the woman who must mobilize the news crews in events of breaking news. “I am thrilled and honored to be part of such a great news organization,” she says. Her training prepared her for the constancy of the job. Prior to this, she was the executive producer for WDSU-TV, and she also won an Emmy Award for an education special she wrote and produced. Hernandez is a native New Orleanian, and says, “Please be kind to [the city] and to one another during this extraordinary time of recovery and rebirth.” — S.R.
As a lawyer and assessor, Nancy Marshall is dedicated to ascertaining justice in New Orleans. Marshall was the only one of the “IQ” group to gain a position in the recent election. Though she ran with six others for various districts, they all decided ahead of time that they would campaign to have their office abolished in favor of there being only one city-wide assessor rather than the current seven elected from districts. Marshall says she is still on a mission to consolidate the number of assessors, for efficiency and money-saving purposes. “My short term and long term goals are to make sure that property owners are not treated disparately, that is, that people in my district are not treated unfairly in their assessments, and, ultimately, that the entire city has fair assessments. We need to eliminate favoritism for a few.” Marshall hopes that the constitutional amendment to consolidate the assessors on the Nov. 7 ballot will pass, and she encourages everyone to become involved in the process. “Consider one thing you can do to participate in the rebuilding of New Orleans,” she says. “Turn your frustration or passion for New Orleans into action.” — S.R. Recently returning to the limelight is Ochsner Clinic, and at its helm, chief executive officer, Patrick J. Quinlan, M.D. “My job is to lead, cultivate other leaders and manage through others,” Dr. Quinlan explains. With the recent purchase of three area hospitals, these easily understood terms – lead, cultivate, manage – have escalated quickly beyond their everyday difficulty. “We look forward to rebuilding Baptist Hospital, Kenner Regional and Meadowcrest Hospital,” Quinlan says. “We hope that by supporting these hospitals we can forge better relations with local health professionals and the local communities.” He goes on to promise, “We will restore community bed capacity and retain health professionals in the region.” Quinlan’s personal goal for Ochsner is to make it a “better place to get and give care.” Throughout the community, Dr. Quinlan hopes for Ochsner to “provide the healthcare safety net for our community, and be a positive force in the recovery of our great city.” Ochsner stayed open continuously throughout hurricane Katrina, and its aftermath. “Katrina revealed the strengths and virtues of Ochsner,” he says, “In many ways, Ochsner is stronger than ever.” He adds, “The crisis demonstrated the strength and generosity of our people and our nation.” — M.P.
Chris Giordano, the general manager and partner of the new Wow Café Tennis Center, has successfully drawn the Men’s Challenger tennis tournament to the University of New Orleans east campus, where the Wow Café Tennis courts are located. This endeavor will not only provide revenue for the city’s rebuilding efforts, but mere entertainment, which Giordano hopes will be a much-needed “oasis” from the constant construction occurring around the area. It can be difficult at times, Giordano says, to “keep and convey a positive outlook. But New Orleans is a great city and we need something that is not construction-related. We need something for the community.” Perhaps the new tennis center is just the remedy. Giordano, a tennis pro who is also the former sports director of the Metairie Country Club, has dreamed about this center since he was in college, when a professor assigned a project dealing with a simulated sports facility. Now that this vision is a reality, Giordano will continue his quest to establish New Orleans as a positive athletic atmosphere. Giordano hopes to promote New Orleans as the host of the Davis Cup tennis tournament in 2007, which will require help from all levels of the city – from grass roots to the tourism industry. — S.R.
Theatre Louisiane, the itinerant group of New Orleans-based artists, recently returned from Montreal, where they toured dis+graced, a multimedia performance featuring text from Euripides’ Medea and letters of Josephine Bonaparte, a piece that originally debuted in New Orleans at the Zeitgeist theater. Amy Woodruff, the artistic director who founded the group in 1999, compiled the script, designed the set and costumes, and also starred as the main characters in their first, one-actor show. Each project, she says, is a learning experience. Her husband, Blake Buchert, a cartographer, is on the board of directors and is chairman of the Board of Trustees for the company, which was incorporated as a non-profit theater in the state of Louisiana in 2001. The self-described group of “allied artists” will begin working on their next project this winter. Woodruff and Buchert, along with Chrispin Barnes and Jennifer Buras, the current resident artists, also look forward to developing more touring opportunities. “We would love to see our work represent Louisiana in a positive light to other parts of the country and the world,” says Woodruff. — S.R.
Kate Wendel now oversees the marketing programs for five of the nation’s most prestigious festive market centers. The properties, once owned by the Rouse Corporation and recently acquired by Marketplace Properties are, in addition to the local Riverwalk, Marketplace in Miami, Harborplace in Baltimore, South Street Seaport in New York City and – the granddaddy of all such properties – Faneuil Hall in Boston. Though Wendel is responsible for programs along the East coast, she remains a New Orleanian. Because the Riverwalk Market is ranked as the number three activity for visitors, reopening after Hurricane Katrina was a crucial step forward in the recovery process. Tourists generated 90 percent of its center sales, so spreading the word remained a number one priority. The forward-moving fleur-de-lis logo was used to encompass the message “Walk the Walk,” in reopening public relations and advertising. Wendel will help lead Riverwalk Marketplace into its 20th year, and she says that they will continue moving forward with progress. “Many people found tremendous inner strength in facing the challenges of rebuilding, and New Orleans will benefit from that strength over time.” — S.R. Charged with, “conducting the day-to-day operation of a city of 75,000 population,” Edmond “Ed” Muniz, the newly elected Mayor of Kenner is a far step away from “enjoying [his] retirement” at his condo in Florida. Instead of moving forward with those plans this past spring, Muniz “kept observing the things going on in Kenner government, and became more concerned over the direction in which Kenner was being taken and who would be able to lead the city.” At this point Muniz entered a “hotly-contested” campaign, “pulling out a decisive win in the runoff.” Muniz strives to make Kenner the “pride of its citizens,” by reorganizing and unifying his city’s government and moving forward “in a collaborative environment among all elected city officials.” Meanwhile in New Orleans, Muniz is known as the founder and captain of the Krewe of Endymion, which had its first ride in 1967; less well known, is his membership in New Orleans Hilton’s Walk of Fame. Though he has he ties in both cities, Kenner has his heart. Muniz won’t rest until Kenner is “a place where residents can say without hesitation: ‘Yeah, I live in Kenner, and it’s a great place to be.’ That’s pride with a capital ‘P’.” — M.P.
After obtaining a Management degree from Loyola, Percy Marchand decided to officially establish a printing business. Located in Gentilly, Marchand Ink, a design and printing center that produces social and commercial stationery, opened in 2005. Marchand had been working towards establishing his printing business since he was a teenager, after receiving his first computer. No hurricane would stop that from happening, though Marchand Ink did lose over $50,000 in uninsured damage. The past year has undoubtedly been challenging for everyone, but Marchand is confident about the future, and with good reason. He was recently selected out of 1,700 applicants nationwide as the $1,000 grant recipient from Ideacafe.com, a resource center that aims to help small businesses. In addition to handling the company with three other people, Marchand also teaches a printing class at Youthstartup.com and is the chairman of the board for Gert Town Revival Association. In the near future, he plans to expand Marchand Ink and its community programs, and eventually run for a political office. — S.R. Having recently moved into its third generation of family leadership, American Coffee Company, Inc., founded in 1890 as New Orleans Coffee Company, is probably better known as French Market Coffee and Chicory … in the red can. “I’ve been at American Coffee for 29 of the 65 years since we moved the company to 800 Magazine,” Fraser Bartlett says, “which means that I’ve done just about every job we have.” Though his main job is roasting and cupping coffee, he also drives routes and has been known to work a forklift when needed. “Paperwork takes up more of my day now as president, but you can’t ask anybody to do a job you’re not willing to do.” Jesyka Bartlett, Specialty Marketing, speaks up for the fourth generation, “I want people to know that chicory is enhancing, not bitter! Chicory drinkers are ferocious in their loyalty to the richer flavor.” “I’m looking forward to sitting down with some of our oldest recipes and roasting that blend to that particular flavor that earned us so many loyal customers,” Fraser adds. “Living up to their loyalty isn’t easy, its even uncomfortable sometimes, but it’s what keeps us going and what keeps us looking ahead.” — M.P. As one of the advocates for the consolidation of assessors, Louisiana State Senator Ann Duplessis demonstrates commitment to changing and implementing solutions to Louisiana’s governmental problems. Duplessis, who also works in the banking industry, is an example of a citizen who takes action against an injustice. She says she became especially concerned with politics when a “crooked representative” made her angry. “I realized that the only way to really affect change, have a positive impact on my community and ensure effective leadership was to get involved.” Her primary goals last year included addressing critical issues regarding recovery, and ensuring that money was allocated for families and businesses to return home and rebuild. She met her goal, Duplessis says, by authoring and supporting recovery legislation and working to create the “Road Home Program,” to provide resources to those trying to return. Though her first term is drawing to a close, she plans on running for re-election. Duplessis says she will continue to rally for improvement in federal, humanitarian and financial aid in New Orleans: “We can change things that are no longer productive.” — S.R.
Born in New Orleans, Craig Tracy is no stranger to the artistic eccentricities of the city; in fact, he is quickly becoming one of its major contributors. Tracy spends his days and nights in the French Quarter, which is the home to his personal art gallery, Painted Alive – the first bodypainting gallery in the world. In 2005, he was selected as the overall winner in the 8th annual World Bodypainting Festival, held in southern Austria. He competed against 180 other bodypainters from 40 nations across the globe. This year, he was a judge. Tracy says that one of his many goals for the next few years is to “establish body painting as an art form that is viable for other artists to pursue.” He would also like to organize the largest fine art bodypainting exhibition in America. He is in the early stages of co-authoring a book on the subject. “I hope to show the world how New Orleans nurtured me to think differently and to not be so concerned with what others were, or more accurately, weren’t doing … I am a product of New Orleans and I think it’s not a coincidence that my work is viewed as globally unique.” — S.R.
As the president of the Broadmoor Improvement Association and the manager of Greater New Orleans Education Foundation, Latoya Cantrell has recently worked on the redevelopment plan for the Broadmoor neighborhood, which she looks forward to helping implement as soon as possible. There are around 600 people involved in the Broadmoor Improvement Association, and Cantrell is the leader and a guiding light for displaced residents of the area. Pre-Katrina, Broadmoor housed approximately 2,400 residents, and Cantrell says that at least 1,500 plan on coming back, if they are not back already. She spends hours a day attending meetings around the city and she is constantly on the phone with displaced residents, giving them resources and information. For the New Orleans Education Foundation, Cantrell handles grant-writing, financing management and program management. The Broadmoor community is rallying for a charter school system, and they are in need of educators to help out with this great challenge. “I got here through my passion for community and equality and the will to do my part in society,” she says. — S.R.
As a business president, real estate developer and three-year owner of Houmas House Plantation, Kevin Kelly is playing a critical role in helping the tourism industry get back on its feet. The exquisite plantation suffered little damage from the storm, but with so many devastated surrounding areas, Kelly recognized that tourism would be a necessary component to recovery. Kelly immediately got the word out that Houmas House Plantation was open, and he urged people to visit the unique historical destination, which was once the largest sugarcane plantation in Louisiana. He plans to build a luxurious addition to the plantation – the Sugar House Inn, which will hold 88 rooms and occupy six stories with balconies overlooking the Mississippi River. The experienced businessman will oversee his contribution to the tourism industry and says, “Some may consider my transition from real estate developer to plantation resort developer as a major career change, but it is actually a continuation of what I have done for 25 years and reflects how the city of New Orleans has changed.” — S.R. Arnie Fielkow is somewhat of a Renaissance man. This Wisconsin native became a lawyer and then gravitated toward professional sports marketing and business management. He served as the executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints before Hurricane Katrina changed the course of his life yet again, this time running for and being elected as one of the city’s two Councilmembers-at-large. “I felt strongly that I had a responsibility to try to do everything I could to speed the recovery of the city.” Since the election, Fielkow says he spends “a good deal of time trying to figure out how to develop ordinances that address the city’s most immediate needs and will move us as quickly as possible toward a full recovery and much-improved future.” One of his goals in the near future is to “strengthen the sense of unity” among council members, the mayor and the governor, as well as with the elected officials and government leaders nearby. Fielkow says he is honored to serve the city and despite the obvious hardships, he “looks forward to playing a significant role in the rebirth and rebuilding of one of the greatest cities in the world.” — S.R. The Bingo! Show is an eight person, multimedia, audience-interactive, carnivalesque, game-show-rock band. Their shows might include music, films and games with prizes, led by a master of ceremonies – once there was even a wedding. The group is both bizarre and intriguing, which is a good combination of traits if you want to gain national attention. These seven men and one woman are jokesters, clowns and musicians. The Bingo! Show started several years ago and gained popularity in New Orleans, often selling out shows that were mostly held in the French Quarter. Now, the group’s reputation is spreading. The troupe played at the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee, which Ron Rona, aka Ronnie Numbers, says was a terrific experience. “They really made us feel like rock stars,” he says in a moment of seriousness – as he applies white clown makeup. Though the group may be wacky and outrageous, its members are humble and say they feel honored that they have made it this big. Recently, they were featured at the Hollywood Jazzfest, playing along with the Preservation Hall jazz band. — S.R. Though he is a Texas native, the new head basketball coach of the University of New Orleans Privateers, Brent “Buzz” Williams, seems ready to call New Orleans his home. After moving here in June from College Station, where he was the assistant coach of the Texas A&M Aggies, he has already begun to scout potential basketball players – ones he hopes will become vital to the city and to the school. Williams, who once was a student assistant coach at Oklahoma City University, says he wants victories that are well rounded, and he makes sure to guide his players into successes that are athletic as well as academic. He also focuses on the importance of sportsmanship and the relationships of the teammates as they begin training for the upcoming season. “I want to make this program a beacon of light for our city and the school,” he says. “I think UNO basketball has a great opportunity to build upon its success. I feel excited and blessed to be here.” — S.R. John Bellini III and Shane Nicaud grew up together – their fathers have been friends since attending De La Salle – so when Bellini approached Nicaud at a family party, they seemed like the perfect fit. Bell Foods is the result. Growing and gaining recognition in the last few months, they continue their successful venture into the post-Katrina Gulf Coast region. A merger and a growth of their fathers’ companies, this full line protein vendor – they sell most types of meat and seafood – attributes its success to the family oriented traditions taught by their fathers. “Last year was about survival in the beginning, and then rebuilding … we have a very dedicated and loyal group of people that work alongside us everyday and we have always worked to maintain a family atmosphere at our company,” says Bellini, chief of operations. “If we can grow our company to the next level within the next five years,” adds director of Sales and Marketing, Nicaud, “then I feel that John and I would be successful in honoring our fathers by building something that leaves a lasting legacy for both of our families to look at and be proud to call our own.” – M.P. Janee “Gee” Mercadel owns Sophie’s Gelato on Magazine St. She says she spends “Thirty hour days” making ice cream by the individual gallon and guaranteeing high quality to her customers. Mercadel keeps her standards high. Her ice cream, she says, often elicits delighted squeals of “Oh my God,” making her wonder if Sophie’s Gelato might be “the most religious spot in New Orleans.” Though Mercadel (formerly known as Tucker) runs the business by herself, she hopes that the profits from her hard work will pay off and she will be able to train and hire a “good team of people” to help out with the increasingly popular dessert shop. “I have finally found out what I want to do when I grow up,” says the woman who lived and worked in Hollywood for fourteen years, worked in customer relations and federal contracting and reigned as Zulu Queen in 1977. “This job has all the elements of every career I’ve ever enjoyed. I’ve worked harder than ever before, and I’m very proud of my product.” Besides, she adds, “When you figure out what you’re doing with your life, if you do what you’re drawn to, it won’t seem like work.” – S.R.
Gogo Mathas Borgerding recently opened up her namesake store on Magazine Street – GoGo Jewelry. Here, she designs and creates jewelry and runs the business by herself. Even on her “off” days, Borgerding says she finds herself creating new designs and working on special orders. During Jazzfest, Borgerding displayed about 85 different jewelry items, including her popular GoGo bracelets – made from anodized aluminum in many colors and overlaid with sterling silver. Nearly all of them sold out, and she resorted to cutting out pictures from her brochure and taking backorders. She says she has “exceeded her expectations in the jewelry business.” Borgerding is grateful for her success and rising popularity, and says that, “Being able to participate as a vendor at Jazzfest was incredible and renewed faith that I have in New Orleans,” With a recent line of flower-inspired pins, necklaces and rings – and new ideas blossoming every day – Borgerding says her long term goals include continuing her fun and hip jewelry, and she hopes to “be able to make a living at it.” — S.R.