Everyone who knows John Rowland, owner of Southern Hospitality Catering Company, knows what a kind and generous man he is, always willing to help a friend or employee when he or she needs it the most. On March 6, 2011, Bacchus Sunday, Rowland was ready to ride in the parade and received a call from Julie Lamkin, his “right hand” at the company, who told him there was a terrible fire at his catering company. A policeman gave him a ride from his float to his business. A firefighter led him into the smoking, burning building to get insurance papers. Finally, they said the fire was under control, so Rowland rode in the parade. Later that night, a second fire broke out, and it was worse than the first – another call from firemen, this time to his wife, Jennifer – and it was devastating. Everything was destroyed!

The next day, Rowland got a call from Joel Dondis, who wanted to help any way he could – Dondis works out of the Hampton Inn and offered his kitchen for Rowland and his employees. Rowland then got a call from the general manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites New Orleans – Convention Center, Eddie Jacobs, who offered him the space for as long as it took to get back to work. Then, friends Brian Chamberlain and Charles Frank offered him office space – John was “blown away,” but it didn’t end there. Wanda Hardy of Staffing NOLA sent people to help clean equipment. Jeff Scurlock gave him a free tent for eight months. His loyal employees worked out of the tent and in the yard, in borrowed kitchens – whatever it took.

They definitely had business, so Rowland didn’t have to let anyone go. Just when he thought every kindness had been shown, he saw Ronnie Demillio, who works at Mother’s, at St. Stephen’s Church last Sunday. Demillio wanted to help and told Jerry Amato at Mother’s, who offered to let Rowland come to pick out any restaurant equipment that he needed. Rowland has a special thanks to architect Ashley Morton for the building’s redesign.

Rowland’s answer to all of the kindness that was shown to him and all of his employees was to give a party to thank everyone. All of his friends and employees were invited to celebrate the return of Southern Hospitality Catering. John and Jennifer Rowland, Julie Lamkin and all of the employees at Southern Hospitality thank everyone for their kindness under the most trying circumstances!