de Ville Books vs Katrina
J: Oh, we opened December first. We were still carpeting and painting, but our old customers started dribbling in even before that, even while we were working. Each book in the store has to be looked at, cleaned and checked for mildew, but the worst is done. My boss never really left town. He came down a few days after the hurricane and surveyed the damage. He gutted the store, stripped off the sheetrock walls and ceilings, brought in a couple of dehumidifiers, pulled out the soaking wet carpet, and all that. The really tragic part of it is that we just moved here two years ago from our old location near Bourbon Street and refocused. We were making some decent money for the first time in years. Without insurance, we will be about ten thousand dollars in the hole, plus having to keep up with our suppliers.
K: Have your wholesalers been giving you a break?
J: Truth? No, not really. Ingram tried to be nice, but of course UPS couldn't deliver and we had new books that we really needed for the Christmas season stuck in a warehouse for two or three weeks. More and more people are returning to work down here though, and we are about 80% finished with the renovation. Christmas sales have been pretty good, but only about half of what we did last year. A lot of our old customers have returned and have told us that they are committed to buying locally from us instead of ordering from Amazon and the like.
K: How about your homes? Did they survive?
J: Yes, but both my mom's house and mine were damaged with ceilings falling in and so forth. We are fortunate in that we have really good friends who rented a place a couple of blocks away, but they are not living here right now, so they are letting us stay in their very nice apartment. We've been homeless for a long time, but we hope to get back in our own houses by Christmas.
K: We have heard from some people that there is a lot of looting, and there are gangs of disenfranchised people who are mugging and stealing things. Is this in your area?
J: Unfortunately, yes. While our house was being redone, it was looted and ransacked just last week. We thought we had given all our criminals to Houston, but these guys came over the back fence, which was knocked down in the storm, and they stole the usual; stereo, TV, my mom's jewelry, and then they ransacked the house. It was unbelievable. They didn't disturb my books, thank God. They must have realized I was a reader, not just someone who kept money tucked in her books.
K: What can we who are reading this do to help you and the other booksellers like you?