'The Trifecta of Disasters' : This Black-Owned Business in New Orleans Survived Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill. Now It's Facing Covid-19

Karl Turner has loved seafood for a long time.

Even prior to founding his company A La Carté Specialty Foods, he served as the executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board for 14 years. It was in 2003 when Turner began the Black-owned business based in New Orleans specializing in ready to heat and serve delicacies like seafood gumbo, breaded oysters, and shrimp cakes. Then, Hurricane Katrina hit two years later.

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“As a result of Katrina, it was terrible, quite frankly. The city was completely shut down. People had left and there was like a ghost town here,” said Turner.

He did, however, notice an increase in a number of sales of products on the market that were sold at retailers like Walmart, after Louisiana natives were forced to evacuate the city and relocate to places like Texas and Tennessee.

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The BP oil spill in 2010 was another matter. The blowout on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig caused one of the worst disasters the Gulf of Mexico has ever seen, costing BP more than $65 billion to clean up the oil spill and compensate coastal residents, fisherman, and others for the damage it caused. Turner said it was “debilitating” for A La Carté Specialty Foods because of the negative connotations of oil and water.”

Now the food industry as a whole—particularly speciality foods—is suffering again because of the covid-19 pandemic. Research also shows that over 50% of all Black-owned businesses may have to shut down due to COVID-19. Despite these challenges, Mr. Turner remains optimistic.

“I hope that we can see a significant change come November 3 that can put us in a better place to better handle and lead this country out of this pandemic and restore our economy, and we can continue to grow and thrive,” said Turner, referring to the date of the general election. “A La Carté Specialty foods, hopefully with the help of God, we will survive.”

Turner details how the pandemic has impacted business, the food culture of New Orleans, and more in the video above.

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Jessica Moulite is an award-winning Video Producer at The Root passionate about dismantling unjust societal power structures and all things Black culture. She's also probably watching “Living Single.”

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