New Orleans small businesses survive
One year later, 75% of businesses are back and optimistic about an uncertain future.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- "They want to help New Orleans go on," said Roxanne Candebat referring to the tourists that have been trickling in to town to eat, shop and listen to music.
Candebat's novelty gift store, Country at Heart, on Magazine Street in New Orleans didn't suffer any damage when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005 but she did experience a surprising uptick in sales when she reopened her store in October.
Although Candebat said she doesn't know why last year's strong holiday sales helped make it one of the best years in her store's 15-year history, she credits the return of tourists and evacuees, determined to boost the local economy.
She said anything in her shop with a fleur de lis, the symbol of New Orleans, became an instant best seller. "People want a piece," Candebat said.
Despite the usual summer slowdown, Candebat is hopeful that sales will turn higher again this fall, although she admits that it's still a bit early to tell how her business will fare in the long run.
Although the business owners on Magazine street were largely unaffected by the flooding that covered most of the city, they have all had to deal with the traditional downturn in tourism during the summer months on top of loss of income from last year's hurricane.
Candebat's own tenant, Janet Bruno-Small has had a very hard time staying open. Her jewelry store, Mon Coeur, has suffered a significant drop in sales because "people aren't rushing out to replace their jewelry," Candebat said.
Other business owners in the Big Easy have also struggled over the past year.
Approximately 81,000 businesses in Louisiana were damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year, according to the Census Bureau. Although 75 percent have since reopened their doors, around 19,000 businesses have closed permanently since the storms.
The Small Business Association has approved 92,971 disaster loans for over $6.5 billion to businesses affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but many business owners said getting approved was no easy feat.
"If your credit is really good, then you have to go through the bank instead, but if you're credit is bad, you would get denied by the SBA," explained Candebat.
"I personally don't know of anyone who went through the SBA."
Pro-active business owners who suffered financial losses have employed sales, tax-free days and street fairs to lure customers back and many are optimistic that New Orleans will experience a celebrated renewal.