Dwayne Boudreaux cut the grand opening ribbon on his re-opened Circle Food Store in the 7th Ward last January. But he’s still cutting red tape to get his store to its full potential.
Boudreaux struggled for over seven years to reopen the flooded Circle Food Store — an establishment that became a symbol of lingering Hurricane Katrina devastation.
He finally managed to get funding and rebuild in the neighborhood that needed fresh, affordable food. But then he was told he couldn’t apply for permission to handle the Women, Infants and Children food supplement program — a big part of his customer base.
“When I went to apply for the WIC I was told there was a moratorium on it and I didn’t know anything about that. I was very surprised,” he says.
So he contacted business and political leaders to intervene.
US Senator Mary Landrieu wrote to federal Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. She said the Circle Food Store serves a neighborhood with a poverty level almost 150 percent above the state average. And federal regulations didn’t take into account the business is returning after a national disaster.
Boudreaux says it’s been a problem for his business as well as the community.
“We would always be putting back baskets of groceries — and this is because a customer would come in to shop — and then they’d come to present the WIC vouchers and find out we don’t take them," he said. "That was hardship on both parts — my part because I’m losing the business, their part because they came and shopped for the groceries never even dreaming to think that Circle Food Store is not being able to accept the WIC program.”
Boudreaux says he’s just received the Agriculture Department application — a good sign after being told he couldn’t even apply for a permit — and will soon be sending it back to Washington for approval.