New Orleans Business Owners Update

FSB revisits five small business owners affected by Hurricane Katrina two years ago.

Turning around a shrimp company for a fifth generation
David and Kim Chauvin
Turning around a shrimp company for a fifth generation
When FSB first discovered The Mariah Jade Shrimp Company ( shortly before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck, ("Blue Bayou" September 2005) the big problem for this fourth-generation family business was foreign competition. When Rita's floods swept through Chauvin, La. the Mariah Jade, the company's shrimper, became the temporary home for David and Kim Chauvin, and their three kids, David, Jr., Mariah and Dustin. Local supermarkets and restaurants were out of business, and Mariah Jade lost 75% to 85% of its business, Kim says.

Like everybody else in the small bayou town, the Chauvins went to work cleaning up. Mariah Jade trucks delivered Clorox and cleaning supplies to homes and free shrimp to community dinners.

Today? "We are just pulling back on our feet," says Kim, 39. "We had to find another customer base after Katrina." The Chauvins started printing a newsletter and set up a MySpace account to find new customers and to let old ones know that they are still in business. They focused on expanding wholesale distribution and that business is doing well enough to justify the purchase of a second shrimp boat.

Mariah Jade is also benefiting from the ban on contaminated shrimp from China this summer. That has put a dent in the company's old nemesis - cheap imports. "I have seen a rise in people looking for quality," says Kim. She's hoping that the Chinese shrimp scare will convince more American consumers to pay a little more for safer, higher-quality shrimp. That, she says, will help Mariah Jade thrive as David, 18, takes the company into a fifth generation. "This is what we breathe, eat and sleep," says Kim. "There is something in our blood."
The Chauvins George Brumat Jason Michael Perry Don and Helen Ridings John Rowland