Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco announced a plan to provide interest-free loans and $100 million of federal funds in grant money for small businesses in New Orleans. The NewsHour reports on the struggle for survival as the city rebuilds after Hurricane Katrina.
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TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent:
There aren't many cities where one can buy candy out of a 91-year-old cart, pulled by a 17-year-old horse named Patsy. While Patsy does the driving, inside, Ron Kottemann pulls taffy, using an Italian family recipe even older than the cart.
He's the fifth generation of his family to vend "roman chewing candy" like this. He and Patsy evacuated before Hurricane Katrina, and it was several months before they were able to get back on the street.
But Kottemann says his trade hasn't returned to normal 16 months after the storm.
RON KOTTEMANN, Roman Candy:
I had some — a lot of wholesale accounts, but I lost most of those. You know, they either went underwater or got looted.
He says that's true for most of his wholesale accounts.
In Orleans Parish, I don't have a whole lot anymore. But I have a few out in Metairie, you know, out in the suburbs, and they're doing all right.
To stay solvent, Kottemann has added Internet sales to supplement his horse-and-buggy approach.
A couple of miles from where Kottemann plies his wares, the historic French Quarter is all dressed up for the holidays. But the real tourist season doesn't start until January, and a lot of businesses are hanging on by their fingernails in the meantime.
Laura Drumm runs the Tabasco Country Store in Jackson Square.
LAURA DRUMM, Second Wind NOLA:
We've seen a lot of small businesses closing this quarter. I mean, I had to grow a thick skin, because I couldn't sleep at night worrying about my business and other people's businesses. But I realized that you have to grow a thick skin so that you can go out and fight everyday and not give up.