After the Storm

Throughout New Orleans, hopeful signs fill the shop windows: “Proud to Be Here!” “Open for Business!” and the ubiquitous “Help Wanted.” But they alternate with “For Sale” and “For Lease” and boarded-up storefronts. Locals shop when they can, but the tourist district is eerily quiet compared with a year ago. For most jewelry stores here, news of an approaching hurricane last August was a blip on the radar. Hurricanes are a routine annoyance that time of year, and the word around town was that New Orleans was going to miss the worst of it. On Saturday, Aug. 28, when the evacuation was announced, Virginia Saussy Bairnsfather, vice president of sales and marketing for Mignon Faget, was at Faget's home, going over last-minute details before a business trip. … Richard Lee Mathis, owner of Symmetry, checked his family into the downtown Hilton, known as the sturdiest ho

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