de Ville Books vs Katrina
By Karen Wright
We interviewed Joanne Sealy, Manager of de Ville Books in New Orleans. She and her Mom, who is a spry 85-year old, are still cleaning books, painting, and renewing the bookstore after Katrina's deadly temper tantrum in September.
Joanne is a great gal to talk to, and she hasn't lost her sense of humor or her good nature in spite of recent difficulties. She has lived in New Orleans, off and on, for thirty years. She went to grad school there and then lived in California for about fifteen years where she keeps her Berkeley ties.
K: Give us a rundown on your bookselling experience, Joanne.
J: I worked for Faulkner House Rare Books in the French Quarter for a number of years. I miss selling rare books. It's such a thrill to sell a book for $7,000! But, I love my job at de Ville Books. The store is owned by Julian Mutter who, I think, has a mission about doing good things; he's a wonderful man. He, however, has other businesses in the area, including a furniture store, and has pretty much turned over running the bookstore to me.
K: Have you been in other hurricanes before Katrina?
J: I've ridden out several hurricanes that have hit New Orleans in the past, and we thought maybe we could ride this one out, too, but late Saturday night before Katrina hit, a friend said, "No, you're coming with me to Houston." So my mom and I loaded what we could, and after a half hour of chasing my cat around the house, I finally got disgusted and said, "You know cat, there are plenty more where you came from." Well, the cat promptly came right out from under the house; we loaded up, and headed for Houston.
K: So you got caught in that terrible traffic jam?
J: No, we were really lucky. We were on the highway about 4 a.m. and we moved right along.
K: Where is de Ville Books located.
J: It's at 736 Union Street, in the Central Business District between Canal Street and Poydras. When the 17th Street Levy broke, it came straight down Canal and Poydras streets. When I heard that, I was afraid that the store would be completely done for, but we were lucky. We had no real damage from the hurricane itself. Like so many other places down here, the damage was from the water that gushed from the levy. Of course, we had insurance that only covered wind damage. They would not cover damage from water or flooding so we might as well have had none at all.
K: That was pretty common for policy holders during this, was it not?