Rouses opens in the CBD

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A manager leads a team cheer before the opening of the downtown Rouses Market this morning.
  • A manager leads a team cheer before the opening of the downtown Rouses Market this morning.
Supermarket owners Donald, Donny and Allison Rouse, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and District B Councilwoman Stacy Head opened the new Rouses supermarket in the CBD this morning (on the site of the old Sewell Cadillac dealership). Rouses is now the first supermarket in the downtown area since the A.M. & J. Solari Market and Food Emporium was demolished in the 1960s (the location now houses Mr. B’s restaurant).

Also on hand for the opening were state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, state Rep. Helena Moreno and about two dozen chefs from some of the city’s leading restaurants, several of whom are used in the supermarket’s ad campaigns. Ti Martin of Commander’s Palace spoke, as did chefs Alon Shaya (Domenica) and John Folse (the soon-to-open Restaurant R’evolution). Landrieu praised the chefs on hand for their contributions to the city’s “cultural economy.”

Reflecting the increasingly well-heeled downtown population, the store offers high-end luxury items in addition to the usual canned goods and Louisiana-made products: a stone-fired pizza oven, lobster and live fish tanks, a pho bar, a gelateria, a humidor and an extensive wine section.

More under the jump, including a look at which New Orleans neighborhoods are still "food deserts," and where more supermarkets will be opening in 2012 ...

New Orleans chefs at the opening of Rouses this morning. Several of them are used in the markets ad campaigns.
  • New Orleans chefs at the opening of Rouses this morning. Several of them are used in the market's ad campaigns.
Downtown residents lost their two closest supermarkets — Robert Fresh Market on Elysian Fields Ave. and Winn-Dixie on Basin St. —after Hurricane Katrina. Both still sit empty; the Robert location has been recently used as a site for NOLA Drive-In movie nights, while the Winn-Dixie was a location in the second season of Treme as the fictional “Robideaux’s Market” (the Robideaux's sign is still outside). There is a small Rouses in the French Quarter, while Warehouse District and CBD residents have access to the small-but-upscale Poeyfarre Market.

Much has been made about “food deserts” in New Orleans, though they might more accurately be called “nutrition deserts” — areas where healthy food is difficult to obtain due to distance, lack of public transit and other factors. A 2009 study of New Orleans food deserts by researchers at Tulane University found Uptown to be the area with the biggest availability to healthy food, while Central City and Village de L’est in eastern New Orleans had the biggest challenges.

Actor Wendell Pierce, a New Orleans native, aims to address this inequality next spring when he opens his first Sterling Farms market in the Upper Ninth Ward with business partner and former mayoral candidate Troy Henry. Pierce envisions a chain of Sterling Farms markets across the metro area, including eastern New Orleans. In addition, Winn-Dixie plans to open a Mid-City location next year on N. Carrollton Avenue — almost directly across from an existing Rouses, which should make Mid-City pretty much the opposite of a food desert.

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