Week in Review, Nov. 14-18: US Foods, Bollinger and Breeze

NEW ORLEANS — The next time you dine at a New Orleans restaurant, there’s a chance the ingredients for your meal came from the massive new US Foods distribution center located on River Road on the west bank of the Mississippi River between the Crescent City Connection and Huey P. Long Bridge.

On Nov. 16, local officials joined US Foods employees and customers for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and party at the roughly 200,000-square-foot facility, which is essentially an enormous loading dock connected to several giant, temperature-controlled warehouses. An attached administrative area includes a demonstration kitchen and an “interactive technology center” for customers. The operation is home to about 200 employees, many of whom were on hand for the celebration, where caterers were serving lunch, beignets and other festive fare.

You could say that the grand opening event, which also featured a brass band and swag bags, has been in the works ever since 2017, when Illinois-based US Foods purchased F. Christiana, a local distributor of food and food-related products that had been family-owned for three generations. At the time, F. Christiana boasted nearly $100 million in annual sales and more than 1,800 customers in Louisiana, southern Mississippi and southern Alabama. Independent restaurants, hotels and convenience stores made up the bulk of the distributor’s clientele. Christiana also owned a 70,000-square-foot distribution center at 7251 River Road, the site of the new supersized US Foods facility.

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Economic development officials are delighted.

“Business retention and expansion have long been a key component of our economic development strategy,” said JEDCO President and CEO Jerry Bologna, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “When a nationally recognized business of US Foods’ caliber chooses to expand in Jefferson Parish, it lends credibility to our efforts and promotes our community as a destination for global business. We commend US Foods for creating jobs, investment and opportunities in Jefferson Parish and across the region.” 

Here are more the week’s top business stories:

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Entergy’s Energy Smart Program Brings Cost Conscious Innovation to New Orleans

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Bollinger Completes Acquisition of Mississippi Shipyards

Bollinger Shipyards, a privately-owned and operated shipbuilder, announced that it has completed its acquisition of Pascagoula-based VT Halter Marine and ST Engineering Halter Marine Offshore. “Today marks an important milestone for Bollinger and our 76-year history,” said Ben Bordelon, Bollinger’s CEO and president, in a press release. “We’re excited to offer our defense and commercial customers an expanded suite of high-quality capabilities, services and solutions. By combining our skilled workforces in Louisiana and Mississippi, I know that there’s no better team in the shipbuilding industry to take on the largest, most complex projects.”

Breeze to Fly from New Orleans to Raleigh-Durham and Pittsburgh

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Breeze Airways, the low-fare airline founded by aviation entrepreneur David Neeleman, has announced new service from New Orleans to Pittsburgh (beginning Feb. 3) and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (Feb. 16). Breeze is also adding new one-stop ‘BreezeThru’ service from New Orleans to Hartford, Conn., on Feb. 3 and to Providence, R.I., on Feb. 17. Fares on the nonstop routes start from $59 one-way if purchased by Nov. 21, for travel by May 16, 2023. “As Breeze continues to expand its network, we are excited to see even more growth in its operation in New Orleans,” said Kevin Dolliole, director of aviation for the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. “This new nonstop service to Pittsburgh and Raleigh-Durham as well as the BreezeThru service to Hartford and Providence will provide convenient options to residents and visitors of the region.”

New Orleans-Based Rep Data Secures Series A of $6.25M

Rep Data, a full-service data collection firm for primary research, announced that it has closed a $6.25 million Series A round of funding led by Austin-based Recurring Capital Partners.The company hopes the funding round will accelerate its core vision of improving respondent data quality, which it says is the most “persistent pain point” in the research technology space. Rep Data also plans to “further its vision of making the market research process efficient, accurate and reliable, and elevating expert, premium service across all stages of the data collection process.” “Rep Data has already made significant progress on our two founding principles of excellent service and unparalleled data quality,” said Patrick Stokes, the company’s founder and CEO. “This funding allows us to continue investing in premium talent, and truly put our money where our mouth is as we continue to lead data collection practices in the market research space. We will be making further investments to boost data quality, building a protective layer between survey panels and live survey opportunities, plus addressing other pivotal needs in the industry for reliable, consistent service and expert collaboration.”

Colorado Company Purchases Emergency Restoration Inc.

First Onsite Property Restoration, a Colorado-based disaster recovery and restoration provider, has acquired Emergency Restoration Inc., a full-service mitigation service provider based in New Orleans. Founded in 2003, ERI specializes in property and water damage mitigation. “Guided by their leadership, the team has built an impeccable reputation and a loyal customer base in the region,” said Jeff Johnson, First Onsite Global CEO, in a press release. “Growing our presence in this area helps us further expand services to our national clients while opening new opportunities with large commercial regional prospects.”

‘Adventure Park,’ Swim School to Occupy Former Rouses in Covington

Gulf States Real Estate and Construction Services announced that new locations of Urban Air Adventure Park and Goldfish Swim School are coming to 50 Park Place Drive in Covington in a space previously occupied by a Rouses supermarket. Mike Saucier, president of Gulf States, said he and his partners will renovate the property to accommodate to the two businesses, which are scheduled to open in November 2023. Development financing is being provided by Citizens National Bank. “We are very excited to secure these two great attractions,” said Saucier in a press release. “Our company has been focused on attracting quality family entertainment and children’s activities to the area for quite some time now. … My partners and I want to sincerely thank Donny Rouse and Charles Merrell with Rouse Enterprises for working closely with us to make this deal work for all.”

Senegalese Restaurant Dakar NOLA Now Open on Magazine

Serigne Mbaye, the chef behind Senegalese pop-up restaurant Dakar NOLA, has opened a brick-and-mortar location with partner Effie Richardson at 3814 Magazine Street. Dakar NOLA offers a seven-course Senegalese-influenced tasting menu and is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday. The restaurant seats 30 guests, with one seating each evening. “Tradition is at the core of everything we do at Dakar NOLA,” said Mbaye in a press release. “And it’s a place where every dish tells a story and nurtures the soul. We cannot wait to share our stories and traditions with you.” Mbaye was born in the United States but lived in Senegal for most of his youth. Learning to cook from his mother and while attending boarding school, he was drawn to the kitchen environment and returned to the U.S for culinary school.

New French Brasserie, MaMou, to Open on Rampart

MaMou, a new modern French Brassiere from chef Tom Branighan and sommelier Molly Wismeier, will open to the public on Nov. 18 at 942 North Rampart Street in the French Quarter. The restaurant’s cuisine will reflect the Creole influences of Branighan’s New Orleans childhood and his appreciation for French cooking. MaMou, named for Branighan’s great-grandmother, will source ingredients from Louisiana farmers and producers, including Voiron’s Abattoir, Two Dog Farms and Higgins Seafood. Wismeier, meanwhile, selects “approachable, sustainable wines from France and beyond.” The cocktail menu curated by John Michael Kinsella will pull inspiration from French culinary techniques and ingredients seen in French cooking. “We want to invest in the culture of the French Quarter,” says Branighan. “Molly and I have been working on this vision for a few years and are excited for MaMou to highlight the city’s rich history and become a part of this vital neighborhood.”

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