For New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the section of the city hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed, recovery has been slow.

Nearly ten years after the storm, the neighborhood still did not have a single grocery store. But Ninth Ward resident Burnell Cotlon (pictured above, right) set out to change that.

before and after

Using money saved while working at fast food restaurants and dollar stores, he bought a dilapidated building on an empty block. And in 2014 he opened the Lower Ninth Ward’s first grocery store since the storm. At StoryCorps, he sat down with his mother, Lillie (pictured above, left), to remember the days after the flood.


This story is featured in Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work, a collection that celebrate the passion, determination, and courage it takes to pursue the work we feel called to do.

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To help Burnell further his dream of expanding the Lower 9th Ward Market, visit his Go Fund Me page.

Originally aired August 8, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photos courtesy of Daniel Schergen, Ian Spencer Cook, and Hanna Rasanen for StoryCorps.