NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - A community still struggling to rebuild 11 years after Hurricane Katrina is now home to a laundromat.
Burnell Cotlon held a grand opening Thursday for the new business. It's a big step for the Lower Ninth Ward.
"Growing up in the Lower Ninth Ward we had everything. There were businesses on every corner. We had funeral homes. We had grocery stores. We had everything. We were a thriving community. And then along came Katrina, taking everything away," said Cotlon. "You have to catch three city buses just to make groceries and that's an undue hardship. The closest real grocery store that we have before they opened the one in Gentilly was in Chalmette. You actually had to leave New Orleans to make groceries."
Cotlon decided to use his life savings to try to rebuild his neighborhood. He started off by opening a barber shop four years ago at Caffin and Gálvez. Then he built a snowball stand. When big chain grocery stores refused to build in the Lower Nine, he went out and bought items on his own and opened up his own grocery store.
"It still is a huge undertaking today. I do deliveries. I pick up my own supplies. I belong to Costco and Sam's. I cut out newspaper clippings to see what's on sale. I'm not a Walmart, but you can come here and get a loaf of bread. You can come here and get a gallon of milk and eggs," said Cotlon.
And thanks to donations from New Orleans native and TV Star Ellen Degeneres, now Cotlon has opened this laundromat! Cotlon knows that the Lower Nine still has a long way to go, and each month he's barely making it out of the red, but he's happy with the progress his community has made.
"This is the only laundry room in this part of town. This is the only grocery store in this part of town, the only ATM machine in this part of town. There's still so much that we need here - and that's why I can't stop," said Cotlon.