Biz New Orleans February 2017

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FEBRUARY 2017 | volume 3 | issue 5

Publisher Todd Matherne Editorial Editor-in-chief Errol Laborde Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Antoine Passelac Photographer Cheryl Gerber Web Editor Kelly Massicot Assoc. Multimedia News Editor Leslie T. Snadowsky Contributors Maria Clark, Steven Ellis, Suzanne Ferrara, Rebecca Friedman, Michael Hecht, Pamela Marquis, Allison Plyer, Chris Price, Peter Reichard, Kim Roberts, Jennifer Gibson Schecter, Keith Twitchell, Melanie Warner Spencer advertising Vice President of Sales Colleen Monaghan (504) 830-7215 Sales Manager Maegan O’Brien (504) 830-7219 Senior Account Executive Caitlin Sistrunk (504) 830-7252 Account Executive Carly Goldman (504) 830-7225 Marketing & Events Director of Marketing & Events Cheryl Lemoine Event Coordinator Margaret Strahan Digital Media Associate Mallary Matherne For event information call (504) 830-7264 PRODUCTION Production/Web Manager Staci McCarty Senior Production Designer Ali Sullivan Production Designer Monique DiPietro Traffic Coordinator Terra Durio administration Chief Executive Officer Todd Matherne President Alan Campell Executive Vice President Errol Laborde Vice President of Sales Colleen Monaghan Administrative Assistant Denise Dean Distribution Manager John Holzer Subscription Manager Sara Kelemencky Subscription Assistant Mallary Matherne AABP 2016 Award of Excellence Best Feature Layout: Magazine | Bronze

110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 (504) 828-1380 Biz New Orleans is published monthly by Renaissance Publishing, LLC, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005; (504) 828-1380. Subscription rate: one year $24.95, two year $39.95, three year $49.95 — foreign rates vary call for pricing. Postage paid at Metairie, LA, and additional mailing entry offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biz New Orleans, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005. Copyright 2017 Biz New Orleans. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the consent of the publisher. The trademark Biz New Orleans is registered. Biz New Orleans is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photos and artwork, even if accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope. The opinions expressed in Biz New Orleans are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine or owner. 8

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From the Lens

42 Gay Mardi Gras Krewes

72 Great Offices

After years of living in secrecy, gay Mardi Gras Krewes are reaching out to the public in an effort to secure their future.

48 Keeping Floral Alive


Villere Florist, a local staple since 1969, continues to fight for survival in an industry threatened by internet companies and supermarket sales.

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StudioWTA’s Warehouse District digs

76 Why Didn’t I Think of That? Painting with a Twist leads the booming “paint and sip” industry.

88 Behind the Scenes

The Sold Out Wall at the House of Blues, New Orleans

On the Cover Jobie Jacomine (a.k.a. Puddin Tang) showcased one of the elaborate costumes gay Mardi Gras krewes specialize in at the Krewe of Armeinius’ annual bal masque in 2015. Photo by Barrett DeLong-Church. february 2017




24 Columns

22 NOLA By the Numbers

The Super Region holds the key to our success.

24 Dining Biz

Trends for 2017 from the National Restaurant Association


26 Tourism Biz

During Carnival it’s important to think local.



30 Entertainment Biz

56 Education

20 Calendar

32 Entrepreneur Biz

60 Healthcare

28 Sports Biz

Carnival collides with the NBA All-Star Weekend.

A glimpse at the future of studio recording

Gracious Bakery is an example of how to deal with the unexpected.

How TOPS cuts are impacting local students and universities

Fighting back against heart-related deaths

34 Biz Etiquette

64 Law

36 Tech Biz

68 Guest Viewpoint


Tips for Carnival conduct at work

Data is becoming not just more prevalent, but more useful for business.

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Local attorneys talk about workplace expectations under Trump.

New Orleans is regaining its place on the global scene.

Upcoming events not to miss

38 Biz Bits

Industry news

80 Q&A

Port of New Orleans CEO, Brandy Christian

86 Around Town – Events Industry gatherings february 2017


Publisher’s Note

New Orleans Snow Day


elieve it or not, we are in the dead of winter. Up north, winter closely resembles an arctic ice tundra, with businesses sometimes forced to take off for a “snow day.” Snow is rare here in New Orleans, but we can count on winter bringing us reason to take off anyway; we call it “Mardi Gras.” Like so many others I enjoy the Friday before Fat Tuesday with lunch and bar hopping. I love getting together with friends, catching up on stories and reminiscing in celebration during what is traditionally local’s day in the French Quarter. Rather than sledding, skiing, ice fishing or sitting by the fire, as one experiencing a snow day up north may encounter, in New Orleans we do lunch and adventure through the city, seeing friends and having conversations. Carnival season folly leads us to places like Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, Old Absinthe House, Hermes Bar at Antoine’s, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar or The Carousel Lounge at the Monteleone. No matter how the day goes, however, I always end the festivities with a Bourbon Milk Punch at Bourbon House before a taxi or Uber home. So work hard this month until the 24th, then take a “snow day.” Todd Matherne


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Meet the Sales Staff

Maegan O’Brien Sales Manager (504) 830-7219

Caitlin Sistrunk Senior Sales Executive (504) 830-7252

Carly Goldman Account Executive (504) 830-7225

Colleen Monaghan Vice President of Sales (504) 830-7215


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Calendar Friday, February 3

Tuesday, February 14

Jefferson Chamber of Commerce

St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce

Business & Breakfast

SBDC Sponsored Seminar: Drive New Business with Social Media

7:45 – 9:30 a.m.

9 – 11 a.m.

Hilton New Orleans Airport

David C. Treen Instructional Technology Center

901 Airline Dr.

2024 Livingston St.


Tuesday, February 7

Tuesday, February 28

New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Sponsored by First NBC Bank 2017 Power Lunch 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. 1515 Poydras St. 5th Floor Auditorium

Tuesday, February 7 Baton Rouge Area Chamber Monthly Luncheon 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. East Baton Rouge Parish Library at Goodwood 7711 Goodwood Blvd.

Mardi Gras Day

Wednesday, February 22

Thursday, February 9

Jefferson Chamber of Commerce

New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Alliance Seminar with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business & NAWBO

Prosper Jefferson Seminar Series: Finding Alternative Funding 9 – 10:30 a.m. JEDCO Conference Center

3:30 – 7 p.m.

700 Churchill Pkwy.

Little Gem Saloon

Ramp Room (upstairs) 445 S. Rampart St.

We’d love to include your business-related event in next month’s calendar. Please email details to


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Columns | NOLA By The Numbers

Super Region’s Commuter Patterns


Live in New Orleans — > Work in Baton Rouge Live in Baton Rouge — > Work in New Orleans Live in New Orleans — > Work in Houma-Thibodaux Live in Houma-Thibodaux — > Work in New Orleans



Our Super Region The key to being a global competitor is to come together.

T Allison Plyer is

executive director and chief demographer of The Data Center in New Orleans. Dr. Plyer is author of The New Orleans Index series, developed in collaboration with the Brookings Institution to track the region’s progress toward prosperity, and she leads The Data Center’s research on the development of the water management cluster in Southeast Louisiana as published in The Coastal Index series. 22

he cities of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Houma are each the center of a metro area— a larger geography where labor is pooled, and innovation and production are concentrated. In recent years, important economic interconnections have begun to extend beyond metro areas, and a “super region” is forming across these three proximal metros. The number of cross-metro commuters between New Orleans and its adjacent metros grew 26 percent between 2004 and 2014, despite the substantial loss of jobs and population in New Orleans post–Katrina. In 2014, over 29,000 workers commuted from the Baton Rouge metro to the New Orleans metro, and more than 30,000 workers commuted in the opposite direction. Another roughly 12,000 workers commuted from

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the Houma metro to the New Orleans metro in 2014, while about 10,000 commuted the opposite direction. This data suggests that the workforce of Southeast Louisiana is increasingly integrated. Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Houma-Thibodaux are highly synergistic to each other in their economic roles. For example, the oil and gas industry served by HoumaThibodaux’s Port Fourchon and the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port is the literal feedstock of the petrochemical manufacturing sectors in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans metros. The three regions also share complementary specializations in heavy construction and engineering, shipping, waste management, higher education, seafood processing and certain advanced manufacturing sectors.

At the heart of Southeast Louisiana’s economy are sophisticated heavy construction, engineering and scientific consulting, and water transportation. The greatest challenge for the region will be redeploying innovative and workforce assets to rebuild coastal marshes that protect economic infrastructure, including ports, pipelines, refineries, chemical plants, and ship yards. Wetland restoration activities will not only be synergistic to the region’s efforts toward economic modernization, they will also be key to the region’s overall sustainability. In an ever-more globalized economy, regional collaboration is also critical to achieve the scale needed to compete. With a 2015 population of 2,480,791 and 1,131,050 jobs in 2016, a Southeast Louisiana “super region” is comparable in size to the Portland, Oregon metro area, larger than the Nashville metro, and eclipses the burgeoning LouisvilleLexington super region. Leaders across greater New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Houma-Thibodaux have come together to form the Southeast Super Region Committee to collaborate on economic development strategies — a sign of the escalating sophistication and alignment of regional leadership. Much can be learned from The Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, the largest research park in the country. First envisioned in the 1950s as a way to strategically invest the meager resources of a poor state, leaders in North Carolina invested heavily in higher education and transportation to connect the area’s three universities. This multi-decade strategy yielded today’s economic powerhouse that has attracted billions of dollars of investment from major corporations, and changed the economic trajectory of North Carolina. For the Southeast Louisiana Super Region to be competitive, leaders need to commit to long-term strategies that increase skilled workforce, accelerate private investment, and efficiently move workers around the Super Region. With 53 percent of the state’s population and 56 percent of its jobs, a multi-decade effort focused on developing Southeast Louisiana could change the economic fortunes of our entire state. n february 2017


Columns | Dining Biz

Top 10 Food Trends for 2017 1- New cuts of meat 2- Street food-inspired dishes 3- Healthful kids’ meals 4- House-made charcuterie 5- Sustainable seafood 6- Ethnic-inspired breakfast items 7- House-made condiments 8- Authentic ethnic cuisine 9- Heirloom fruits and vegetables 10- African flavors Source: National Restaurant Association, What’s Hot: 2017 Culinary Forecast

2017: A Menu Odyssey Trends for the new year from the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey. BY Peter Reichard


ou sit in a chef-driven, fast-casual restaurant. You start with a pupusa appetizer. You move on to an ahi poke salad. For your entree, you have a heritagebred, free-range beef shoulder tender on a bed of ancient grains; to the side are African-spiced heirloom vegetables. You sip on a house-made soft drink. For dessert, you have artisan ice cream atop a smoke-flavored donut. Or something to that effect, now that it’s 2017, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual food-and-beverage trend survey. According to the survey, chefs remain a growing part of branding. In fact, not since chef Ettore Boiardi began putting his face on canned pasta has food been so closely identified with the chef. But apparently with great recognition comes great responsibility. One of the top trends is “hyper-local sourcing” — meaning chefs are tending their own gardens, pickling their own cucumbers, mixing their own 24

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condiments, curing their own charcuterie, brining their own hams and smoking their own sausages. In fact, chefs are even expected to save the world. Per the survey, sustainable seafood, food waste reduction and environmental sustainability in general are among the top trends. The waste reduction trend may partially explain the No. 1 trend of 2017: new cuts of meat. As chefs endeavor to use more of the animal, they may be more inspired to use cuts like shoulder tenders, which are difficult for butchers to extract but extremely, um, tender. Then there’s the flat iron steak, which is nearby on the cow but in contrast is tough. The payoff is in the flavor. Other trendy beef cuts include the Vegas strip and Merlot and Denver steaks. Some of the no-waste, nose-totail movement has apparently lost its appeal, however. The survey says heart, stomach (tripe) and liver are “yesterday’s news.” For the front of the house, restaurants are increasingly brewing their own beer and

distilling their own spirits in on-site barrels. With this trend comes an unprecedented exaltation of the barkeep, who must now create and accommodate a menu of signature concoctions and culinary cocktails. Breakfast, meanwhile is going international. One of the top trends for 2017 is ethnic-inspired breakfast items like chorizo-scrambled eggs, breakfast burritos, Asian-flavored syrups and coconut-milk pancakes. But the nation may be divided on this point, because another top trend is the lumberjack breakfast — lots of eggs, bacon, flapjacks — which is as American as breakfast gets. The survey also points to cooling trends in 2017: You’re less likely to order vegan or vegetarian cuisine. You’re less likely to eat quinoa or gluten-free noodles. You’re less likely to find a food-beer pairing on the menu. You’re less likely to demand grass-fed beef. You’re probably not buying a pre-paid ticket to dinner for a specific “showtime” at a restaurant that refuses to make free reservations. For some reason, people are becoming less interested in low-sodium dishes. And tapas is on the downswing. Per the survey, food trucks are no longer the in thing. But simultaneously,“streetfood inspired dishes” like tempura, kabobs and dumplings, are a top trend for 2017. The survey also points to a United Nations study estimating that 2.5 billion people worldwide eat street food each day. Of course, once you move any kind of street food inside a restaurant, it’s no longer street food. Some trends from years past are moving right out the door. Insects are being exterminated from menus. Algae is going the way of kale. Sharable cocktails and fun-shaped kids’ items are both in decline, which does not bode well for the future of humanity. On the other hand, healthful kids’ meals are a hot trend for 2017, so while romance and fun may be in decline, at least the kids will be fit. n february 2017


Columns | Tourism Biz

Mardi Gras Like a New Orleanian A look at local businesses that help make the experience more authentic.

P Jennifer Gibson Schecter was

once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. Prior to New Orleans, she wrote for publications in the Midwest and New York City.


arades, costumes, music, dinner specials, neighborhood celebrations and after parties all allow for different ways of exploring the magic of Mardi Gras. With a direct economic impact of $164 million, according to a 2015 Tulane University study, one way visitors can ensure an authentic visit — and locals can strengthen their own economy — is to use local businesses when possible. Stay Local For lodging, bed-and-breakfast offerings are a wonderful choice. The website is a good resource with an interactive map of the city’s neighborhood offerings. With the rise of non-traditional (and so far, nontaxed) vacation lodgings, the bed-and-breakfast industry has taken a hit. Staying at an established bed-and-breakfast provides access to some of NOLA’s most interesting neighborhoods

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and some of the city’s most knowledgeable innkeepers. For those looking to forgo on a hotel or traditional bed-andbreakfast in favor of a platform like Airbnb, try to book with a host who only has one or two properties to offer. Those hosts are more likely to be locals who are using it as a source of extra income, and less likely to be “entrepreneurs” who have evicted longtime tenants in order to make more money with vacation rentals. Wear Local Costumes aren’t for everyone, but not everyone decides to visit New Orleans during Carnival. I recommend to any visitor, or local, to get into the costuming spirit because it’s part of the fun and fantasy of the season. Pretending to be a book character or alien or unicorn can give you freedom to be something other than yourself for a day. It also invites conversations with strang-

ers which otherwise wouldn’t happen. Those conversations often lead to local suggestions of the hidden non-guidebook places to see during a stay. The best wig shop in town is FiFi Mahony’s in the French Quarter at 934 Royal Street. It will be incredibly busy for Mardi Gras and probably can’t offer any custom work, but its stock wigs are high quality and you can always embellish them yourself. For costumes and other wig needs, New Orleans Party & Costume at 705 Camp Street is a great place to start. New Orleans has so many costume shops that it’s easy to buy from a local business and avoid the national chains. Other suggestions are Carl Mack Presents, Uptown Costume and Southern Costume Co. For those who don’t want to costume, showing a little NOLA or Mardi Gras spirit is still achievable with some of our witty and artistic local T-shirt purveyors. Defend New Orleans at 1101 First Street offers NOLAthemed attire and books, and shops like Dirty Coast and Fleurty Girl have multiple locations around the city. Self-Care Local Carnival is a time of excess. Even for locals who are used to cocktails at children’s’ birthday parties and butter on nearly every entrée at a restaurant, the indulgences around Mardi Gras can make your pants too tight and the ibuprofen bottle your best friend. For visitors and locals alike, self-care is important to remember. “Hydration is key!” says New Orleans massage therapist and owner of Pura Vida Massage, Amy Robertson. “Drink water before you leave your hotel room. Buy water to bring with you and drink it throughout the day as you drink alcohol. Ask yourself, ‘Have I had my water course lately?’” Robertson also advises to care for your body and mind through yoga. “Try to take a yoga class at least once. We have so many great studios! My favorites are Swan River and Balance. Even just one class can be a complete reset, and all studios that I know of do drop-in classes.” Another suggestion is body work, especially for visitors not used to walking and standing for long periods of time. “Of course, a massage is a great idea, too,” says Robertson. “Just be sure you drink extra water if you do yoga or get a massage. It’s all about the water, y’all!” Happy Mardi Gras and laissez les bon temps rouler like a local! n february 2017


Columns | Sports Biz The 66th NBA All-Star Game will be played on Sunday, Feb. 19, beginning at 8 p.m. at the Smoothie King Center, home of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Full Court Press NBA All-Star Weekend and the first weekend of Carnival parades combine for economic windfall, global exposure for New Orleans

T chris price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football.


wo of the things New Orleans is best known for will come together this month for a jam-packed weekend of celebrations that will be televised around the world. The NBA’s All-Star weekend — the annual mid-February celebration of all things basketball — will be held Feb. 17-19, the first weekend that major Carnival parades will roll across south Louisiana. As a result, the city, along with both state and local businesses will have a global audience resulting in an expected economic windfall of more than $100 million. The 2017 NBA All-Star Game and related events were originally scheduled to take place in Charlotte, but the NBA pulled

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its annual All-Star weekend festivities after North Carolina’s Legislature passed House Bill 2, which the league has criticized as a piece of anti-LGBT legislation. New Orleans put together a bid for the game in a three-week window and was awarded the game in August, just months before it was to be played. New Orleans was the obvious choice to host All-Star weekend once the NBA decided to pull the event from Charlotte. This will be the third NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans in the past decade, after the Crescent City held the event in 2008 and 2014. All-Star weekend tips off Friday, Feb. 17, with the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, in which the league’s top rookies and

second-year players make up teams that compete against players from the rest of the world. Saturday includes fan favorite events, like the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, where participants compete head-to-head in a series of passing, shooting and agility drills; the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest; and Verizon Slam Dunk Contest, as well as All-Star team practices, the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and NBA Development League All-Star Game presented by Kumho Tire. The weekend concludes with the NBA AllStar Game on Sunday, Feb. 19. Events will be held at the Smoothie King Center and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Unlike 2013, when the city moved the first weekend of parades up a week to clear the calendar for the massive crowds that came with Super Bowl XLVII, local officials did not alter the parade schedule this year. That should give potential visitors extra incentive to come to New Orleans and enjoy themselves and the abundant revelry. Before the 2014 All-Star weekend local experts expected an economic impact of $89.6 million, but a University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center study found the event generated $106.1 million, with $60.4 million in direct spending and $45.7 million in secondary spending. Visitors were found to have spent an average of $904 during their stay. That made roughly $4.9 million in tax revenue for the state and $3.2 million in taxes going to New Orleans area governments. “This type of high-profile event that brings visitors to New Orleans has a lasting effect on future visitation,” said John A. Williams, director of the Hospitality Research Center, as well as its dean of the College of Business Administration, of the NBA’s AllStar event. “Because of media coverage of the events showcasing our great city, it also inspires those who have not visited New Orleans previously. While visitors came from all over the nation to attend, attendees also came from 15 other countries. Events such as this are pivotal as New Orleans seeks to expand its international visitation.” The 2017 NBA All-Star Game will be televised in prime time on TNT, and will be broadcast worldwide to 215 countries and territories in 49 languages. n Photo ASSOCIATED PRESS february 2017


Columns | Entertainment Biz Shadow Brother

Toby Vest (vocals, guitar, keys) Jeff Schmidtke (guitar, keys)

Jake Vest (guitar, brass, keys)

Remote Recording Advancements in technology allow bands to collaborate from afar.

I Kimberley Singletary is the

managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.


f I asked you to close your eyes and picture in your mind a band busy recording a new album, you’d probably imagine a group of musicians huddled together in a padded, windowless room looking into a control booth. Out of the control booth someone is calling out directions to the musicians who pause periodically to share ideas and rework certain sections. Together they may play into the wee hours of the morning trying to perfect a song. That’s how The Beatles did it, and The Rolling Stones, and everyone from Alabama to Metallica. But what if the band members are spread across the country and busy with other jobs and family life? Often, when those intrusions creep in, it means the

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end of the band. Luckily for local musician Jeff Schmidtke, his band, Shadow Brother, has managed to avoid that fate thanks to technological advances. The creators of the psych pop stylings of Shadow Brother are Metairie native and current Uptown resident, Jeff Schmidtke, and brothers and Arkansas natives Toby and Jake Vest. Toby currently lives in Memphis and Jake in New York City. The three have been playing together since 2003 — Jeff and Toby met during college in Memphis and Jake later joined — and toured together from 2005 to 2008. Their latest album, however, entitled “Delta of Time,” was completed without ever stepping foot in the same state. “Toby owns and operates a

studio now in what was formerly our old practice space,” Schmidtke says. “Things typically start there — he’ll come up with a sound and he’ll send it to me, then I’ll add my part in and then it goes to Jake and he’ll add stuff and then it goes back to Toby who mixes it at the studio.” Schmidtke says this method of collaborating — made possible by the use of Pro Tools, an industry standard recording software — not only allows the members to avoid having to hop on a plane, it also gives them as much time as they want to think about the music and what they want to contribute. “There’s no real timeline,” he says. “We don’t set deadlines. I may listen to something and take a week or so just playing with ideas before I add anything. It allows me to do something I love because I can do it when I have the time.” Besides being a musician, Schmidtke holds a day job in sales for a U.S. coin wholesaler and renovates historic homes and rents them out around New Orleans with his wife, who recently had their second child. When he wants to play, Schmidtke steps into a little home studio off his home’s courtyard and gets to work. Initially, the majority of songs on the album were recorded as acoustic and vocal takes over basic drum machine rhythms, with the idea of getting the “keeper” vocal in order to set the emotional mood of the songs. Through voice memos and mp3s, the band spent over a year trading ideas back and forth that ranged from a fully-formed song to a simple solo guitar. “I think we’ve played together so much that we just know what the others like, what we’re looking for.” “Delta of Time” will be released digitally on Feb. 14. At that time it will be available to stream on Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, Apple Music, iTunes, Google Play, Napster and Tidal for 99 cents a song and $9.99 for the full album. The album will also be available on the band’s website ( A cassette tape release has yet to be announced. “I think this kind of thing is getting more and more common,” says Schmidtke about his band’s alternative recording methods. “For us, there’s no end goal really other than just to be able to keep making music,” Schmidtke says. “It’s not about money or fame, it’s just about continuing to get our music out to as many people as we can.” n february 2017


Columns | Entrepreneur Biz

Goodness, Gracious Gracious Bakery is an example of how to deal with the unexpected.

T Keith Twitchell

spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macrobusiness levels.


he ability to hit a curveball is a valuable skill not just in the major leagues, but in the entrepreneurial leagues. How owners deal with life’s little surprises can be critical to their business’s success. Take the example of Gracious Bakery, which recently and with perfect timing opened its third location along the St. Charles Avenue parade route. The timing for the opening of the first Gracious location was somewhat less propitious: August 2012, two days before Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. “Our friends were already calling it ‘the bakery in the middle of nowhere,’” laughed Megan Forman, the executive chef and owner, recalling the event. “But

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we felt that if we offered good coffee and good food and good service all in one place, it would be Gracious all around!” “That little area is really underserved,” added coowner Jay Forman, speaking of the stretch along Jeff Davis Parkway between the interstate and Earhart Boulevard. “Originally we were mostly doing a weekday business, but now we have become a destination on weekends. “Within a year we outgrew our production capacity, and we began getting wholesale requests,” Jay continued. “We knew we wanted to continue growing, so we started looking for a commissary location to consolidate production.”

Continuing to demonstrate their pioneer spirit, the Formans located a building in what was then a slightly sketchy stretch of Earhart and opened a significantly larger baking facility in March 2015. They quickly realized that the timing and logistics for meeting the increased demand were very different than simply baking for one location. They also realized that their production capacity had gotten well ahead of demand. “The biggest curveballs were all the hidden costs,” explained Megan, citing among other things taxes, equipment, employee costs and insurance. “As you grow, these all go up.” The couple also found that the expense side in general was a lot more difficult to project than the revenue side. The bakery business does not have a big profit margin, which meant they had very little room for error. “It’s really hard to earn your way out of a hole,” Jay pointed out. Despite the growing pains, the Formans remained committed to expansion on the theory that economies of scale would ultimately make their business more profitable. Clearly they have been able to hit those curveballs. The new Garden District location came with a packaged liquor license, which will increase profits, and Gracious also provided premium king cakes for all three New Orleans Whole Foods Markets. Whole Foods is just one of their 25 wholesale accounts, which include a variety of restaurants and markets. The Gracious baking style is “distinctly American,” said Megan. “Pies, cakes — I’m into the rustic approach, the comfort food.” The product line also includes a wide variety of breads, including those for all the sandwiches they serve. “All products are made from scratch, no mixes,” Megan continued. “It’s all very high labor, but it comes through in the flavor.” The Formans are clear about what kept them from striking out while they were striking out; They had a vision, and they had a plan. Megan had experience at top local restaurants, and took lessons and advice to heart. “A mentor who is willing to share their experience is incredibly helpful,” she said. “Model everything,” Jay advised. “Do your projections, get everything on paper. You do not want to get into the game haphazardly. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done — and it is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.” n february 2017


Columns | Biz Etiquette

Carnival Courtesies Office etiquette for parade and party season

C Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of

New Orleans Bride Magazine. Her writing has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Houston Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her everready stash of blank thank-you notes. Submit business etiquette questions to Melanie@


arnival season is upon us, which means, like a shimmering strand of Mardi Gras beads tossed from a f loat, business as usual sails right out the window. While it’s common knowledge that many people and companies around New Orleans will have special hours, it’s still a good idea to keep a few things in mind so the season doesn’t cause confusion, or worse, a loss of business or clients. Here are a few tips for a seamless Carnival season: n Let’s be honest, Carnival time is party time. That being said, even if you have the most understanding managers, clients and customers, a hangover is not a good look at work. So first and foremost, look ahead and if you know

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you’ll be out late for certain business-day parades, parties or balls, consider scheduling the next day off in advance. If you can’t schedule time off, take the necessary precautions to avoid being “overserved”: Don’t drink on an empty stomach, hydrate and have the necessary remedies handy at home and at work, just in case. (I’m a fan of Emergen-C.) n Familiarize yourself with all the parade routes and closures around your office, house and scheduled meetings. Managers might want to send an email to everyone in the company with route and closure information, especially if your business is located in those areas. Share this information with your clients as well and offer them the option to hold meetings elsewhere.

n Employers and employees who live inside the parade loop should make arrangements with managers and alert clients, costumers and co-workers to their schedule. Plan to send out an email indicating which days you’ll be leaving early, departure times and whether or not you’ll be available for phone conversations, emails and remote work after you leave the office. If you are in a krewe, include your parade days and indicate whether or not you’ll be taking vacation days or coming in for a half-day. Encourage everyone to get together with you on anything pressing, so you don’t leave anyone in a lurch. Business owners who plan to close up shop should also get the word out to clients and customers via e-blasts, social media and signage. n One of my co-workers is a longtime member of Muses. Each year, she brings in a bag of throws prior to her parade and shares the goodies with everyone at the office. It’s always fun to get a “preview” and to know that even if we miss her on the route, she has “thrown” us something in spirit. n On that note, she also advises, “If you know where a co-worker is on the route and they don’t see you, don’t ‘punish’ them the next day at work.” She jokes that she is never able to find even her husband due to the noise, crowds and commotion atop the f loat. Getting miffed at someone who doesn’t see you under such chaotic circumstances is bad enough; so don’t make matters worse by bringing it up the next day. If ever there was a time for a hall pass, this is it. n Work ahead as much as possible to avoid missed deadlines, since so many people you may need to connect with aren’t as available during Carnival.

A little planning and courtesy go a long way toward a smooth work life this time of year. Unfortunately, no matter how much you plan ahead, inevitably a client, customer or co-worker will be caught off guard. When that happens, try to show a little compassion and instead of getting angry, tap into the spirit of Carnival and laissez les bons temps rouler! n

Photo Thinkstock february 2017


Columns | Tech Biz

Tools for Exploring data Open Data




Integrate ms141026.aspx


Machine Learning machine-learning/


Not Just Numbers Data is becoming not just more prevalent, but more useful for business.


Steven Ellis

has spent the last 16 years working at the intersection of business and technology for Bellwether Technology in New Orleans, where he serves as the company’s vice president.


s someone with a mathematical, financial and technological background, I am a strong proponent of the benefit of analyzing and using data to make better decisions. Not surprisingly, then, I am happy to see a number of trends and emerging technologies that promise to help in that effort. The first is that data sources are becoming more open and easier to connect to. This trend exists in virtually all modern applications. One example of interest to those of us who live or work in New Orleans is the website, on which the city of New Orleans publishes over 100 different data sets, such as building permits, 311 calls and police reports. These data are readily available for viewing on the site in table form, and can also be downloaded as a file and opened in Microsoft Excel for immediate analysis. But they also support a variety of different live connections to allow either Excel or a purpose-built data analytics application to connect in a more permanent way and always use

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the most recent available data. Which brings us to the second trend — the emergence of data analysis and manipulation applications. Microsoft Excel, when fully utilized, is a superb data analytics tool, but as my colleague John Marshall wrote about in the October 2016 issue of Biz New Orleans, other applications like Microsoft PowerBi and Tableau are even more powerful in their ability to create and share data visualizations. Visualizations are all about helping us interpret, understand, or connect data to make them more useful. If you have a table of building permits or police reports and show them on a map it’s much easier to truly get a sense of what’s going on in your neighborhood. Chart them over time, and it’s easier to spot trends. (The data.nola. gov website also has a full complement of charts and maps.) New tools also make it easier to connect or integrate disparate data sets. Simple cloud-based tools like Zapier and Microsoft Flow and enterprise applications like SnapLogic and Microsoft

SQL Server Integration Services make it easier than ever to automate the process of taking data from one place, cleaning it up and sending or connecting it to something somewhere else. Now, even when using the latest tools with good data, I acknowledge that many data analytics projects consist of simply making the same data or charts we have always had more accessible. Instead of a monthly report, it’s a real-time dashboard. Or instead of taking four hours to download and manipulate a proprietary file, it’s instantly available in Excel. These projects can be extremely beneficial — I don’t want to minimize their importance — but ultimately, we can and will do much more. A final trend is the ability for technology to help us make sense of our data. This is the promise of machine learning and broader artificial intelligence, to which the Googles and Microsofts of the world are devoting significant attention and resources. From a business executive’s perspective, machine learning means that computers can analyze data, find patterns and give us useful insights without our having to program them to connect the dots. As a simple example, we might feed in disconnected marketing and sales data, and the computer might tell us which combination of marketing activities most effectively leads to more sales. This ability exists today, and is probably used more often that many of us realize. Still, while you don’t have to tell the computer how to draw conclusions, you do have to prepare the data carefully and define a model. We’re still a ways away from computers doing all the work for us. n Photo Thinkstock february 2017


Biz Bits - Industry News Around town

We are proud to lead the charge in promoting healthy workplaces in Jefferson Parish. As most people spend a majority of their day at their job, the workplace is the ideal location to begin the change in healthy habits. Worksite health promotion and disease prevention programs save companies money in health care expenditures and, when done right, produce a positive ROI. Todd Murphy, president of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, which just launched its Healthy Business Initiative in January. For more information, visit

Small Business Uncertainty Dropped 15 Points in December The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Uncertainty Index tumbled 15 points, from 100 to 85, and the percentage of owners who report feeling unsure if the economy will be better in the next six months fell from 23 to 12 percent in December. The percentage of owners unsure about making capital expenditures fell from 20 to 10 percent. “Small business owners are breathing easier as the new administration’s economic policies come into view,” said NFIB President and CEO, Juanita Dugga.

Ochsner buys MHM Urgent Care On Jan. 10, Ochsner Health System (Ochsner) announced its acquisition of Millennium Healthcare Management, Inc. (MHM). Going forward, all 14 MHM locations — including 12 urgent care and four occupational health clinics where 50 physicians provide care, 365 days each year to more than 135,000 patients — will become part of the Ochsner Health System and Ochsner will manage the day-to-day operations.

Louisiana Ranks 10th in the Nation for Racial Progress WalletHub’s analysts recently measured the gaps between blacks and whites in 16 key indicators of equality and integration (including items like median annual income, standardized test scores and voter turnout) for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. How Louisiana Ranks (1=Most Progress, 25=Avg.) • 14th – Change in Median Annual Income Gap • 28th – Change in Labor-Force Participation Rate Gap • 13th – Change in Unemployment Rate Gap • 21st – Change in Homeownership Rate Gap • 6th – Change in Poverty Rate Gap 38

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Registration Open Now for RES/CON Scheduled for March 7-9 at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, RES/CON — The Global Resilience Summit — is the premier international conference on the practice of successful resilience building and disaster management. The speaker and programming lineup includes representatives from the United Nations, Twitter, the City of Los Angeles, AirBnB, Shell Exploration & Production Company and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The event is produced through a partnership between Greater New Orleans, Inc. and the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Register online at

Recent Openings

The Gibbs Family Center for Innovation + Design Engel & Völkers New Orleans International premium real estate firm Engel & Völkers New Orleans opened its second location on Jan. 6 at 601 Julia Street in Downtown New Orleans. This is the fifth shop the firm has opened in Louisiana in the past year.

On Jan. 26, St. Martin’s Episcopal School opened The Gibbs Family Center for Innovation + Design. The center serves as the centerpiece of St. Martin’s Innovation + Design program, which equips students with the skills and mindsets necessary to succeed in college and in life through a design studio, woodworking and build shop, and prototyping and production labs.


Beau Maison Memory Care Assisted Living

Less than one year after opening its first New Orleans location in March 2016, the technology repair brand uBreakiFix announced its newest location at 3200 Severn Ave. in Metairie on Dec. 31. Both stores are owned by millennial entrepreneur Mike Melito, who is planning two more locations in New Orleans and four in Baton Rouge. The company has 270 stores spread across North America.

Peristyle Residences opened its newest memory care assisted living location in the heart of Metairie at 3520 Cleary Avenue on Jan. 31. The residence offers eight spacious private and two semi-private rooms, along with luxuriously appointed common areas.

Coming Soon Children’s Hospital Expansion On Jan. 11, Children’s Hospital broke ground on its $225 million expansion — the largest expansion since the hospital was founded in 1955. The new campus will feature substantial improvements, including: a new emergency department, inpatient radiology department, surgical services department, same-day surgery unit with all private rooms, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and Neonatal Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU/CNICU), cancer center of excellence with inpatient and outpatient services together, and a 400-car garage with a direct and easy walkway to inpatient and outpatient services, front door and lobby.

Dunkin Donuts to open up To 69 stores in Louisiana New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees, in partnership with existing franchisee Vik Patel, has signed an agreement to develop up to 69 new Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Monroe and Alexandria, Louisiana over the coming years. The first location under the new partnership is planned to open in 2017. Currently, there are a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants located throughout Louisiana.

We’d love to include your business-related news in next month’s Biz Bits. Please email details to february 2017



february 2017


Close your next deal at one of these business-friendly bistros.

Riccobono’s Peppermill Restaurant

Broussard’s Restaurant

3524 Severn Ave., Metairie | (504) 455-2266

819 Conti St. | (504) 581-3866

The Best kept secret in all of New Orleans. For Over 40 years the Riccobono family has been serving classic Italian and New Orleans fare to its loyal patrons. Downtown dining in the heart of Metairie. Breakfast & Lunch daily 7-3 Dinner 3-9 Wed- Sun Book your parade reservations now!

Visit a historical Grand Dame restaurant celebrating the tradition of Reveillion since 1920. Conveniently located in the heart of the French Quarter, Broussard’s Restaurant & Courtyard has been serving classic New Orleans dishes with a twist for 96 years. Whether it’s for brunch, dinner or happy hour, choose to dine in the majestic main dining room or in the palatial courtyard. Broussard’s - a local dining tradition since 1920.

Rock-n-Sake Bar & Sushi

Windsor Court

2913 Metairie Rd., Metairie | (504) 267-9761

300 Gravier St. | (504) 522-1992

Rock-n-Sake was founded on the principle of creating an exciting, casual dining experience where guests can enjoy some of the best sushi and Japanese influenced cuisine around . Dine at Rock-n-Sake in the Warehouse District or at the newest location in Metairie. Takeout, catering, and private parties options are available.

Lunch in New Orleans just got a huge promotion. At The Grill Room at Windsor Court, lunch isn’t climbing the corporate ladder, it’s at the top of the food chain. Join us for a meat and three gourmet plate lunch for just $19.84. Why the $19.84 price point? That’s a nod to the hotel’s opening. Enhance your lunch with $2 martinis made with Tito’s Vodka or Plymouth Gin. So call a recess, adjourn the meeting because it’s time for lunch. Served six days a week, Monday through Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. february 2017



february 2017

Gay Mardi Gras krewes are starting to come out of the shadows and embrace a new economic model designed to preserve their artistry and keep the party going. By Rebecca Friedman

Clarence Jackson (a.k.a. Ms. Ebony) struts her stuff for the Krewe of Armeinius in 2014. Photo by Barrett DeLong-Church february 2017



f you’re not familiar with the vibrant gay Mardi Gras tradition in New Orleans, there’s good reason for that. From the time the first gay krewes emerged in the late 1950s, they often operated in the shadows of a society that was largely unwelcoming. In fact, due to the dangers, the krewes have never (and still do not) parade publicly. Instead, they celebrate with their own annual bal masques, decked out in elaborate costumes that in essence become more like personal floats. Today, however, those shadows have lifed and there are currently seven active traditional gay Mardi Gras krewes, many of which are following a trend toward openness and integration into Carnival’s mainstream. The largest of these organizations, the Krewe of Armeinius, is leading this charge, in response to both demand from carnival-goers eager to share in their festivities, and the economic necessity of reaching a broader base outside of the city’s gay community.

A History of Perseverance The first gay krewe, the Krewe of Yuga, was formed by a group of friends in 1958. While it was an early hit among the gay community, the organization’s success was short lived. The krewe’s 1962 ball, held in secret at a Metairie site, was raided by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s department. Nearly 100 attendees were arrested. During that period, New Orleans authorities were cracking down hard on the gay community. Arrests were common, and the Times-Picayune regularly published a list of individuals arrested for suspicion of homosexuality. “It was a dangerous time to be gay,” says Albert Carey, who joined Armeinius in 1970. “The police were always vigilant… having your name printed in the paper meant you lost your job or your apartment or your family.” Violence against members of the gay community was common as well, so discretion was a top priority. After the Yuga debacle, the next gay krewe to form took a different approach. The Krewe of Petronius figured out that obtaining a legal charter from the state of Louisiana would make them a legitimate carnival organization and protect them from prosecution. Using this tactic, subsequent krewes including Amon-Ra (founded in 1965) and Armeinius (founded in 1969) and those that followed were able to avoid Yuga’s fate, though they still 44

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operated under the radar of a society that criminalized their lifestyle. According to city law, Fat Tuesday was the only day of the year on which cross-dressing was permitted in public, though the law required the costume to contain one article of male clothing. But “it wasn’t just a group of happy homosexuals wanting to wear wigs,” emphasizes Carey. “That wasn’t it at all, though that’s what it kind of looks like now. We were in danger of our lives in many cases. That’s the context of the time we were living in.” In that climate, the krewes became a sort of protective network for the gay community, places where they could develop and share the art that came to characterize their elaborate tableau bal masque celebrations. They also took on an unexpected function – coalescing as a political voice for the city’s gay community. When Harry Connick Sr. ran for election as district attorney in 1969 against the incumbent Jim Garrison — who was staunchly anti-gay and responsible for the tough enforcement of the city’s restrictive laws — the gay community realized that the krewes could serve as a convening mechanism and platform for change. “I never imagined a political side of it at the time until certain things started happening in New Orleans,” says Carey. “We realized there was no political gay leadership in New Orleans. None. All we had were the krewes. So the krewes stepped up and became the gay leadership.” The first political meeting was held by the Krewe of Amon-Ra to support Connick’s candidacy. “He promised us that he would stop the arrests of the vice squad… That’s how the political part came — we were just answering the needs of the time.” Though Connick’s first bid failed, he did succeed in defeating Garrison in 1973, and this changed life considerably for gay men and women in New Orleans. According to Carey, this easing trend continued with the election of African-American mayors, as the city’s black community had long offered support to the gay community. In the early days of Armeinius, says Carey, “it was only the African-American labor organizations, like the longshoremen’s union on Claiborne and the laborers union hall on Tchoupitoulas, that were even interested in renting us a space.” He also points out that Armeinius has always been open to AfricanAmerican members. The changes in the city’s political landscape helped usher in a period of prosperity for the gay krewes, whose numbers flourished in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Unfortunately, that popularity was

The 4th Gayest Metropolitan Area in America U.S. Metropolitan Areas with the Highest LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) percentage of population (2012-2014). 1. San Francicso/Oakland/Hayward, Calif.

6.2 %

2. Portland/Vancouver/Hillsboro, Ore. and Wash. 5.4% 3. Austin/Round Rock, Texas

5.3 %

4. New Orleans

5.1 %

5. (tie) Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, Wash. Boston/Cambridge/Newton, Mass. and New Hampshire

4.8 %

Source: Gallup Poll

1. Albert Carey, Armeinius member since 1970 2. Barrett DeLong-Church, Armeinius krewe member and event coordinator 3. Bob Rooney, Armeinius 2015 4. Queen and King AmonRa at Armeinius 2015, Opal Masters and Darwin Reed 5. Joel Haas, Armeinius 2015 6. Brent Durnin, Armeinius 2015 7. Josh Arnaville and Jobie Jacomine, Armeinius 2014

short lived as the AIDS epidemic decimated the city’s gay community and forced many krewes to disband, while others withered to only a handful of members. According to Armeinius krewe member and event coordinator Barrett DeLongChurch, as the tide slowly turned in the fight against AIDS, “the confidence of the public came back, and the krewes have grown from there.”

Preservation and Education With the growing integration of the gay community into mainstream society, the mission of the gay Mardi Gras krewes has shifted from one of protection and necessity to preservation of an art form. “We want the art form to continue, but make it our mission to preserve those incredible costumes and honor the people who made this krewe,” says DeLong-Church. The krewes have received support from the Louisiana State Museum, which has been collecting and cataloguing historic materials related to the evolution and culture of gay Mardi Gras in preparation for a 2019 exhibit. There is also a book underway by Howard Smith, who has worked for 15 years to research “Unveiling the Muse: Gay Carnival in New Orleans,” slated for publication this year by the University Press Photos by Jeff Johnston and Barrett DeLong-Church

4 1





7 february 2017


of Mississippi. Most notable, however, has been the 2010 documentary film “Sons of Tennessee Williams” by Tim Wolff, which played at festivals around the world and brought the story of gay Mardi Gras to an entirely new audience. The Krewe of Armeinius has begun offering public classes on the craft of costuming in an effort to share this knowledge more broadly. “We want to make sure the public knows how to be part of it,” says DeLong-Church. “It was always meant for gay men to learn, but as time goes on, we’re finding the straight community wants to help us and learn too.” Armeinius has set up an auxiliary for women who want to be involved, and they have also revamped their website to share more information about the history and tradition of gay Mardi Gras. “We’re kind of out there fishing because we want our craft to be known about. It’s the only way we can gain fans.”

Seeking Fresh Faces Sustaining these traditions requires a dedicated krewe membership. And while the greater acceptance of gay men and women into mainstream society has been a positive change for the gay krewes and their members, it means that many gay men no longer view them as a social or political necessity. As such, some of the traditional gay Carnival krewes (which today include Petronius, Amon-Ra, Armeinius, Lords of Leather, Mwindo, Narcissus and Mystik Krewe of Satyricon) are exploring new ways of attracting members with an interest in preserving the art of costuming, particularly the painstaking construction of the elaborate back pieces that are the highlight of several krewes’ annual bal masques. “The key is to get young members,” says Carey. “My generation has passed away. It’s important to keep young people interested in this.” This push has paid off for Armeinius, which is currently the largest gay Mardi Gras krewe, with more than 50 members spanning a broad range of ages. DeLong-Church notes that each krewe has a distinct personality that attracts different kinds of members. “Ours is primarily entrepreneurial people who are skilled professionals — doctors, lawyers, photographers, architects.” Another krewe might attract f lorists, interior decorators, and designers, and another the theater community. Many people join more than one krewe as well.


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Building a Sustainable Economic Model Armeinius owes some of its organizational stability to the fact that it is the only gay krewe to own its den. When the krewe purchased the rundown furniture store and warehouse on Broad Street a few years before Katrina, they “never dreamed that this area of the city would become as popular as it is now,” says Carey. Today, the krewe uses the den throughout the year for costume construction and storage (they display their costumes in big picture windows facing Broad Street) and for monthly meetings, parties and fundraisers. “We’re always in fundraising mode,” says Carey. “It costs a lot nowadays to put on these things. People want more and more — good lighting, good sets and good music. And the prices of those things have gone up astronomically over the years.” Most krewes rely heavily on fundraising events (Armeinius’ main events include the art-focused event “Glitter and Be Gay” as well as “Cocktoberfest”), which attract many straight attendees. Both DeLongChurch and Carey believe that krewes will need to seek broader support outside the city’s gay community to remain viable in coming years. They have received a valuable boost from the New Orleans Tourism & New Orleans LGBT Hospitality Alliance (NOLHA) — a network of hotels, Mardi Gras krewes, and other gay organizations seeking to attract gay tourism to the city. Several members of gay Mardi Gras krewes were featured in a television ad as part of the ‘Follow Your Nola campaign,’ an appearance that generated both revenue and publicity for Armeinius. Armeinius is also making other changes to attract broader attention to their art. They have ended the longstanding practice of making their annual bal masque an invitation-only affair that was free for invited attendees: the krewe now offers balcony tickets to the paying public and allows members to donate their tables to be sold. This shift has ruff led some feathers (or sequins) among krewe members who are reluctant to open the festivities, but many believe such changes are necessary to keep the krewes viable for the long term. DeLong-Church compares the efforts to those of the Krewe of Endymion, which has also made a strong (and successful) push to expand its audience and attract visitors. To bring more attendees to its ball, Armeinius has relaxed the formal dress code for balcony seats, as visitors often

Southern Decadence Dollars n This annual, six-day-long Labor Day weekend festival that started 46 years ago has grown so large — the fifth largest annual event in New Orleans — that it is now referred to as “Gay Mardi Gras.” n According to the event’s website, “Attendance in 2016 broke all records, with over 180,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participants, and an economic impact estimated to be in excess of $215 million.”

8. King and Consort Lord’s 2015 9. Kent Roby, Satyricon 2013 10. Pertronius 2016 11. Lord’s 2015 12. Tony Leggio, Satyricon 2013 13. King Nick Olivares and Queen Kitty, Petronius 2016

don’t come to town equipped with a tux or gown. “We needed people to come and learn about the craft and the art. It wasn’t worth losing people to have someone looking a little fancier at the door,” says DeLong-Church. The krewe’s advertising drives to fill the balconies for last year’s ball as well as table sales brought in approximately $15,000, which helped offset the rising costs of staging the event. DeLong-Church also believes sponsorships will play a greater role in the future — advertisers currently pay for space in the krewe’s ball book, which has been revamped to make it more appealing to readers and advertisers alike. As ad sales have increased, Armeinius is broadening its sponsor search to regional businesses who are taking a greater interest in the event. “A gay organization always depended on the kindness of the gay community,” says DeLong-Church. “We can’t do that any further — we have to open these organizations up.” “All sorts of tourist organizations are approaching us to buy tickets to the ball,” adds Carey. “We need to reach out to these sources of income. We can’t just rely on the same people buying tickets to all our functions. We hope the ball will pay for itself one day — there’s no reason why it can’t.” As the Krewe of Armeinius prepares for its 50th anniversary in 2018, Carey reflects on how far they have come. “We never dreamed of having a publicity director, and now we do because people want to know about these things, and we want people to know…Our days of hiding are long over with. We want people to enjoy and see everything that we’ve done over the years.” n Photos by Barrett DeLong-Church






13 february 2017


Growing With the Times In business almost 50 years, Villere’s Florist is finding new ways to compete in a changing marketplace. By Pamela Marquis


february 2017

Roger Villere, owner of Villere’s Florist (locations in Metairie and Covington), runs a $3 million a year business that was rated one of the top 100 florists in the country.

Photo Jeff Johnston february 2017


Villere (right) started the company when he was only 19.


n a 2016 Retail and Marketing Association survey, 53 percent of women respondents said they would end their relationship if they didn’t get something for Valentine’s Day. So get the candy hearts, champagne flutes, chocolate-filled hearts, glittery bling, candlelit dinners and roses, roses, roses because it’s Valentine’s Day! In the United States, this day of starryeyed bliss is a $13 billion industry, with the average consumer spending $163 on their true love; a big part of that amount is spent on flowers. Domestically, $403 million is spent on flowers, and an annual 198 million roses are produced for just this romantic holiday alone. Those that don’t have a significant other, but love flowers, are not alone. Six percent of men and 14 percent of women buy flowers for themselves. In total, 25 percent of adults buy flowers or plants for Valentine’s Day, making flowers the fourth-most purchased Valentine’s Day gift after candy, cards and dining out.


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“Valentine’s is our biggest day,” said Roger Villere Jr., owner of Villere’s Florist, a family-owned floral business. “Mother’s Day is our biggest week, and Christmas is our biggest month.” There is no doubt how big this holiday is for this family-owned business. Villere needs to rent two additional refrigerator trucks to hold inventory, he hires police to keep traffic flowing around their Metairie location on Martin Berman Avenue, and adds 100 more workers and 45 more delivery drivers to create and deliver all the floral gifts of romantic passion. “That week we work from 6 a.m. to midnight,” he said. “And yet it’s not a very profitable day. It’s a lot of gross but very little net, not even close, but we love doing it. We always go the extra mile to make our clients happy.” Villere’s Florist started in 1969. Villere was 19 years old and Donna, his wife, was 18. The couple married in April and used money received as wedding gifts to get their floral business off the ground. “The first year we grossed $14,000,” he

said. “It took us five years to make enough money to pay us a salary. It was $25 per week, then $50, then $75 and so on.” Now the business makes more than $3 million per year and is rated one of the top 100 f lorists in the country by Telef lora Florist. “In my day, the dream was to be a stay-at home-mom,” said Donna Villere. “I did help out as much as I could when we started, and I was proud to have my husband take such good care of our family. The world has changed since then and I am very happy that this business offered me so much. I could work and still be there for my children. I am very happy we started this business.” Roger Villere’s love of plants began at an early age, and he shared it with his grandparents, who always had large gardens. In particular, he learned from his grandmother: “She could take a pencil, put it in the ground and it would grow.” When he was in seventh grade, Villere began growing orchids, which he sold to local florists. In high school he worked at Photos courtesy of Villere Florist and Jeff Johnston

big business in Buds

Villere has two locations, one in Covington, and his approximately 7,000-square-foot location in Metairie, which includes a 3,000-square-foot cooler — bigger than most florists’ shops.

Scheinuk Florists. (Many New Orleanians may remember this florist on St. Charles for its Easter display. Every spring, the business featured a tableau that included a wooden bunny church, city hall, a barn, a miniature Scheinuk Florist building and lots and lots of live bunnies.) Villere now has two locations, one in Covington, and his approximately 7,000-square-foot location in Metairie, which includes a 3,000-square-foot cooler — bigger than most florists’ shops. He has 40 employees, 11 of whom are family, and seven trucks that each make 100 deliveries per day. He carries everything from single fresh-cut flowers to elaborate floral arrangements. “We are proud of our designers and 95 percent of our business is our arrangements,” he said “They can take anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours to make. We do a lot of weddings and Carnival balls. We did [Gov. Bobby] Jindal’s inauguration, and we do all kinds of parties and movie sets all over Photos Jeff Johnston


$104.8 billion Value of the global floral trade industry


$26.6 billion Annual U.S. spending on floral products


$7.5 billion Total value of cut flower sales


80 Percent of flowers sold in the U.S. are imported from other countries


16,182 Total number of florist establishments in the U.S.


$322,331 Average annual sales per florist shop


83,208 Total number of people employed in the floral industry


530 Total number of wholesale florists in the U.S.


6,948 Total number of floriculture growers in the U.S.


36 Percent of flower purchases are used for home decorations


45 Percent of all flowers grown for sale are discarded before they are ever sold Source: Statistic Brain

Louisiana, but funerals are the biggest part of our business.” His shop designed a speedboat for Al Copeland’s funeral and a sheriff’s badge for Harry Lee’s. He bristles when obituaries suggest donations in lieu of flowers. “I go nuts when I see that,” he said. “Sending flowers is such a good way to express how you feel about the loved one. It just looks pathetic not to have flowers. And I sometime wondered if they really do give donations. Flowers express so much.” According to the Society of American Florists, the U.S. floral industry includes fresh-cut flowers, cut cultivated greens, potted flowering plants, foliage plants and bedding/garden plants, making floriculture the third-largest U.S. agricultural crop. The industry consists of more than 60,000 small businesses, such as growers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors and importers. But all is not blooming in flowers. With their ability to buy in bulk, supermarket chains are undercutting the smaller traditional florist. The internet also

continues to take a bigger part of sales, forcing some florists to close their doors. “Fifteen years ago there were 40,000 florists, 30,000 10 years ago, and now there’s perhaps 15,000,” Villere said. “Because of the internet and grocery stores, it’s really cutting into business. It’s doing what box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot did to nurseries.” According to an estimate by IBIS World, single owners operate 60 percent of florists with no employees. Of those that have employees, 27.7 percent have less than five and only 0.9 percent employ 20 or more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for floral designers is expected to decline by 9 percent annually from 2010 to 2020. This decline is attributed specifically to a decreased demand for elaborate floral decorations with the shift toward buying loose fresh-cut flowers from grocery and general merchandise stores. “We also have seen our deliveries to hospitals drop,” said Villere. “Now you are in and out so quickly it really doesn’t seem february 2017


Flowers Remain a Favorite n

65% of Americans feel special when receiving flowers.

60% of Americans believe a gift of flowers has a special meaning unlike any other gift. n

n 77% of Americans perceive those who give flowers to be thoughtful. n 70% of Americans say the color of flowers adds to the impact of the gift. n 69% of Americans say the sight and smell of flowers can improve their mood.

Source Society of American Florists Omnibus Survey in 2015

worth bringing flowers. Plus if the patient is really sick, you can’t bring flowers into ICU because of bacteria. Also, funerals and wakes are shorter. It used to be the notice would be in the paper for a few days.” However, Villere is finding ways to compete. His business embraces the internet and has a strong social media presence. They do about 100 orders per day that come from their website and have 13,000 followers on Facebook. “We also give good service,” said Villere. “We are open seven days a week and offer extended hours with a range of delivery times. We deliver twice a day and cover the entire metro area and more.” Larry Katz, owner of Dot’s Diner and a longtime client, appreciates all that Villere provides. “I’ve used them for my business and my personal needs for years,” he said. “Whether it’s for a happy or sad occasion, I’ve always used Villere’s. They always come through and it’s always been beautiful.” Villere says he sells more roses than other flowers, but he gets all kinds of blooms from all over the world. He works with floral brokers who find the best flowers and the best ways to ship those flowers to him. “We get roses from Ecuador, carnations from Colombia, mums and pom poms from Mexico, tulips from Holland, and tropicals from Hawaii and Jamaica. Florist Michael J. Skaff, who developed the International Floral Distributor’s Flower Trends Forecast 2017, predicts muted colors will be hot this year. He thinks it’s because there is so much unrest in the world. He also sees the continuance of the consumers’ desire to bring nature inside their home. 52

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Sixty percent of florist shops in the U.S. are operated by single owners with no employees. Villere’s Florist has 40 employees, 11 of whom are famiy.

“With technology and our fast-paced lives, people want to bring the natural world and natural materials into their home more than ever,” Skaff said. He also sees a jungle-inspired look with an emphasis on sophisticated tropical flowers and foliage this year; Villere agrees. “I’m seeing a lot of new varieties of orchids,” he said. “Also, breeders are always developing varieties that are smaller or larger and those that last longer or ship better.” Villere’s floral designs are changing as well. His designers will still create the traditional and the Victorian arrangements, but they are also doing more modern designs such as a birthday cake made out of flowers. Sadly, a trend that’s been rising for years is how few local flowers Villere can purchase. He recalled that at one time florists could find wonderful chrysanthemums in Ponchatoula. “But land is so valuable now,” he said. “Families are letting their farms go. Max, the owner of Scheinuk’s, used to have a place that went from Airline Highway to River Road. It had 12 greenhouses on it. I used to work out there when I was younger. But when he died they sold it. It’s now a trucking company.” What does the future hold for Villere and his business? He says he will always be involved with flowers and will continue his lifetime love affair with orchids. “But you know you’re going to have to ask the kids about the future,” he said. “In

Valentine’s Day — Fun Facts Teachers receive the most Valentine’s cards, followed by children, mothers and wives. Children between the ages of 6 and 10 exchange more than 650 million Valentine cards a year.


Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day in the late 1800s.


A kiss on Valentine’s Day is considered to bring good luck all year.


The symbol of the ribbon, which often adorns modern-day Valentines, is rooted in the Middle Ages. When knights competed in tournaments, their sweethearts often gave them ribbons for good luck.


Lace is often used on Valentine decorations. The word “lace” comes from the Latin “laques,” meaning “to snare or net,” as in to catch a person’s heart.


Valentine’s Day may have been named after the priest Valentine of Rome, who refused to follow Claudius II’s ban on Christianity. Legends about him state that while he was imprisoned, children would pass him notes through the jail window. Before he was killed on February 14, he wrote one last note to the jailer’s daughter with whom he had fallen in love and signed it “From Your Valentine.”


Source: Ipsos-Insight Floral Trends

a couple of years I’ll be visiting botanical gardens all over the world. There’s a great one in Canada, the Butchart Gardens. It’s located near Victoria on Vancouver Island. Yes, I have a lot of gardens to see.” n

Photos Jeff Johnston february 2017



february 2017

Perspectives A closer look at hot topics in three southeast Louisiana industries

56 Education

60 Healthcare

64 Law february 2017


Perspectives | Education

TOPS Cuts A look at how changes to this program are impacting local students and universities. By Maria Clark


his spring semester is going to present a struggle for thousands of university students across Louisiana. Approximately 51,000 students in Louisiana cover their full tuition bill using funding from the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, better known as TOPS. Last year, Gov. John Bel Edwards and the state legislature announced they were unable to find the money to cover the full cost of the $300 million program. Cuts began last fall, leaving TOPS students responsible to cover 6 percent of their tuition. The government gave families six months to prepare to cover a larger cut set for the spring, when TOPS students would have to cover more than half of their tuition bill. This amounts to a $90 million cut. When the cuts were announced last year, public and private institutions braced for the impact they would have on enrollment. Students who relied on TOPS funding to cover their tuition were told (or required in some cases) to seek other forms of federal funding. Another suggestion was to delay the use of their TOPS


february 2017

scholarship by a semester in the hope that full program funding would return for the 2017-2018 school year. As of January, enrollment numbers at most major universities had yet to be announced. At the University of New Orleans, 1,600 students use TOPS dollars to cover tuition. UNO President John Nicklow says the school has been preparing for these cuts for over a year and has been working with TOPS students to source federal grant funding to cover any gaps in tuition. “We started planning for this and making changes to how we awarded funding a year before this,” Nicklow says. “We wanted to make sure that any student who had financial aid also applied for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). By requiring that from the student, we essentially maximized the amount of federal dollars that students were able to access and get them Pell dollars.” Approximately 35 percent of undergraduate students at UNO receive Pell Grants, money provided by the federal government to

students for college tuition. Since it is a grant and not a loan, it does not need to be repaid. Without the help of the Pell Grant, UNO students would have to cover an additional $1,770 this semester. Filing a FAFSA application in conjunction with a TOPS application was not a requirement before the cuts last year. “The idea in short is to go after other sources of aid,” Nicklow says. “Pell is just one federal grant. Previously, if a student was getting TOPS and did not file a FAFSA they would have been susceptible to the TOPS cuts. Ultimately it would also have hit those institutions that serve middle- and low-income students the worst.” The TOPS scholarship is one of the most generous programs of its type in the country. Until last fall, it covered the entire cost of tuition for Louisiana students who had graduated from high school in the state and had a GPA of 2.5 in core classes and at least an average score on their standardized tests. The program was designed so that students who attend a public school could receive enough money to cover their full tuition. The program also has an incentive to provide extra funding for students with higher grades and test scores. TOPS was originally founded to help low-income students afford college; however, the program expanded to serve students from any economic background. About 41 percent of TOPS recipients are from families with average annual incomes of $100,000 or more. Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge has also instituted a similar strategy to help students cover their tuition this spring by prompting them to fill out federal student aid applications. Spring tuition for a TOPS student at LSU without the help of the scholarship will be approximately $3,819, according to LSU’s financial aid website. Similarly, at the University of Holy Cross, the office of financial aid was asked to notify students of the expected reduction in funding prior to registration for the Spring 2017 semester. In the 2015-2016 academic year, the University of Holy Cross disbursed TOPS funding to 119 students, amounting to $584,011 in funding, according to Hayden Wagar, director of financial aid at the university. So far this school year, 135 students at the university are receiving the reduced TOPS tuition benefit, at about $485,136, a nearly $100,000 difference in funding. Wagar says that students are additionally encouraged to seek out both outside and institutional scholarship opportunities. The university offers a tuition payment plan in which students can make payments toward their tuition. Unfortunately, she says this is only a short-term solution, and the cuts to the TOPS scholarship have “the potential to forever change the landscape of higher education in Louisiana. Students will ultimately have no choice but to utilize both federal and private student loans when seeking to obtain a college education.” Federal student loan funds carry annual limits related to a student’s year in school and dependency status. In many cases, Wagar says the annual limit for a first-time freshman is not enough to cover the full cost of tuition and fees. “Students are then faced with Parent PLUS loans and private student loans, both of which are credit-based options,” she says. “These credit-based loans become problematic for families with poor or no credit, in that, when the loan is denied, few options remain.” It is unclear at this point whether the TOPS program will be fully restored for 2017-2018 . When Edwards signed the TOPS change into law last May, he said that the Legislature would likely need to raise more money either through tax increases or the rolling back of existing tax credits to fund the scholarship program fully. february 2017


In November, Edwards announced that the state is still facing a $315 million midyear budget deficit, and higher education could face yet another cut of $18 million to deal with the shortfall. In order to make TOPS more affordable in the long run, advocates argue that a financial requirement should be added to qualify for the program. Advocates for the TOPS program, such as the Louisiana College Access Coalition, have promoted the idea of restructuring TOPS scholarship to make sure low-income students continue to have access to the program. They have proposed a tiered system that would give students from higher-income families less money from the scholarship fund than those from poor families. The group has said this structure would in the long run save the program money while making sure every qualifying student can still access funding. Douglas Harris, an economics professor at Tulane University and the founder of Education Research Alliance, shares a similar perspective. Private institutions have not been as impacted by the cuts to the program as public institutions. Students who go to private colleges are eligible for TOPS, but the scholarship does not cover their full tuition bill. Tulane University currently has 657 students who expect to receive TOPS payments from the state for the spring semester. The total cut for semester ranges from $162 to $185 per student. Harris said that changes to the program should focus on economic needs and not on changing the academic requirements necessary for qualifying for the scholarship. 58

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Over time, TOPS scholarships have shifted from their original goal of helping low-income students to achieve the more expansive goal of keeping college-educated residents in the state and boosting the economy. In order to do this, the state removed the economic requirement opening the program to students from any socioeconomic background. The problem with this structure, Harris said, is that TOPS has had little shown effect on whether college graduates awarded TOPS funding stay in Louisiana. Harris suggests that program should be restructured to serve its original purpose and award full funding to students from families with incomes below $50,000 a year and gradually smaller awards to families with higher incomes. He suggests that this structure could save the state at least $100 million a year. In an op-ed he wrote for The Advocate, Harris said that as “Louisiana emerges from the current fiscal crisis these saved funds could be reinvested in colleges and universities to help offset the massive cuts to higher education over the last decade.” Louisiana colleges and universities have dealt with nearly $800 million in budget cuts over the past decade already. Harris argues that restructuring the TOPS program to require higher academic standards would shut people out from accessing college. “We already have standards set in place requiring students to get into college and do well in school. We have this huge income disparity in the state. If the goal of the program is to get more students through college we need to target the funds to the students who need it the most. We need to add an income requirement.” n february 2017


Perspectives | Heathcare

Fighting Back Louisiana ranks among the worst states for heart-related deaths. A look at what local hospitals are doing — and what you can do — to change that. By Kim Roberts


february 2017

Illustration Thinkstock


ebruary not only falls during the time of year where everyone is battling to keep their resolutions, it is also National Heart Awareness Month, making this the perfect time to take a serious look at lifestyle choices and make changes, big and small, that can lead to a lifetime of heart health. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, and stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the country. This month is set aside to raise awareness about heart disease and education about prevention and the dangers of heart disease to everyone. Every year one in four deaths is caused by heart disease; the most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, which often presents as a heart attack. Americans suffer 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes each year, and every day, 2,200 people die from cardiovascular diseases—that’s nearly 800,000 Americans each year, or one in every three deaths. While 40 years ago, people living in the northern part of the country had the highest rates of death from heart disease, that title has now moved south.. The percentage of counties with the highest heart-disease mortality fell in the North (from 48 to 4 percent) and the Midwest (from 17 to 6 percent), but increased in the South (from 24 to 38 percent). Counties with the slowest declines in heart-disease mortality (9.2 to 49.6 percent) were mainly in the Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and parts of Texas. Counties with the fastest declines (64.1 to 83.4 percent) were largely in the northern part of the United States, as well as Florida and South Carolina. In Louisiana, heart disease ranked as the one of the top three causes of death in 2013 according to the Department of Health and Hospitals and the CDC, who reported that 193,000 people died in Louisiana due to heart disease in 2013. “Traditionally Louisiana ranks highest in the country when it comes to heart disease and heart-related deaths, and I think so much of this can be directly related to our culture and education,” says Dr. Paul Stahls, a cardiologist at St. Tammany Parish Hospital. “As of 2012, the state ranked fifth in the country for heart disease. That is better, but we have a long way to go to achieve heart health in our state. Our culture is such that it revolves around food, good food, and eating and drinking. You can’t help but have a good time here. But, we are now seeing a trend that people are not smoking as much in the metro areas as compared to years past. Unfortunately, that trend is not carrying over to the more rural areas.” With heart disease being such a concern in Louisiana, New Orleans and the surrounding area is lucky to have some of the top heart facilities in the country in a close proximity. These facilities are pioneers in their fields, developing innovative treatments to improve healthcare as well as prevention protocols designed to educate the community about how to live a healthy lifestyle. “More than 5.7 million people live with heart failure in America,” says Dr. Sapna Desai, advanced heart failure cardiologist at Ochsner Health Systems. “In the early stages, the disease can be managed with a combination of medication and a healthier lifestyle. As time progresses, however, treatment becomes more complex. Patients from around the world have sought care from the nationally renowned team at Ochsner. Here, in the largest program for advanced heart failure treatment in the Gulf South, patients receive the latest treatment options and personal care.” Last year, Ochsner implanted the first HeartMate3 device in the Gulf South region. This new advancement is a mechanical circulatory support that is under clinical trial at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute (JOHVI). From Louisiana to Tampa, Photo by Ted Eytan february 2017


Last year Ochsner implanted the first HeartMate3 — a mechanical circulatory support — in the Gulf South Region. The technology is under clinical trial at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute (JOHVI).

JOHVI, is the only provider to offer and perform the HeartMate3 implant and one of only 25 centers in the country actively participating in the Momentum 3 trial. “The HeartMate3 is an implantable mechanical device that helps circulate blood throughout the body,” Desai says. “Sometimes called a heart pump, the device is designed to supplement the pumping function of the heart for patients too weak to pump blood adequately on their own. The HeartMate3 also enhances the ease of surgical placement due to its compact size. We are the only center in the state that is working with this device. To date, we have 13 patients utilizing the HeartMate3’s innovative technology.” Desai says the type of patient that would benefit from the HeartMate3 runs the gamut, from someone who is short of breath to an ICU patient. “This machine can drastically improve a patient’s quality of life and can serve as a bridge to a heart transplant or as a way to regain an active lifestyle,” Desai adds. “It is a benefit to have a hospital in our backyard with this type of technology available for patients. It is so much easier for patients — they don’t have to travel out of state and incur the extra costs. It makes such a big difference.” The ability to monitor patients for heart failure and arrhythmia has also made great strides in recent years. “Pacemakers have come such a long way,” Stahls says. “In the past, once a pacemaker was inserted a patient could not get an MRI, but new advancements in pacemakers have made it so that patients now have the freedom to have an MRI if needed. They are no longer restricted. Also, there have been advances in the ability to open chronically occluded blood vessels that would traditionally require a bypass surgery. New techniques allow doctors to retrograde from another vessel to open a clogged spot. The patient bypasses open-heart surgery altogether. These techniques are constantly evolving as technology advances.” Touro is also offering new and innovative diagnostics and treatments including cardiac imaging tests such as echocardiography, nuclear imaging and cardiac CT, which can be used to evaluate various cardiac conditions. “Early screening for heart disease and risk factors is very important in identifying common heart conditions to help lower the risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack,” Falco says. “Coronary artery disease and heart failure are two common heart problems in the general population. Years ago, no one worried about 62

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heart disease before the age of 50 or 60, and although it is still more common in older age groups, much younger people are also at risk. Coronary artery disease is not uncommonly seen in 30-year-olds. Heart failure, depending on the underlying problem leading to this problem, can be seen in even younger patients. You are never too young to start paying attention to your heart health.” The Centers for Disease Control state that together, heart disease and stroke, along with other cardiovascular disease, are among the most widespread and costly health problems facing the nation today, accounting for approximately $320 billion in health care expenditures and related expenses annually. Fortunately, they are also among the most preventable. “In order to improve heart health, people need to be aware that heart disease is a real threat to both men and women, says Dr. Viviana Falco, a cardiologist at Touro Crescent City Cardiovascular Associates. “Many women perceive heart disease as something that only affects men, but everyone needs to recognize the risk factors for heart disease, which include smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, in addition to family history.” Touro hosts several events over the year to assist in these efforts, including heart health seminars and screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol. “Once there is an understanding of what puts someone at risk for heart disease, then you can work at lowering your risk,” Falco says. High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (49 percent) have at least one of these three risk factors. Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including: diabetes, overweight and obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use. “It is so important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to keep your heart healthy, Stahls says. “We all already know the way to do that —watch your diet and where your calories are coming from, be active and eat those high protein foods. It is so easy to not eat healthy, especially in South Louisiana, but just eating healthy 80 to 85 percent of the time is achievable and you can splurge the other 15 to 20 percent of the time if you have to and not feel like you are missing out. Set realistic goals so that you can achieve them – your life could depend on it. Think of food as good medicine and keep it simple.” “The American Heart Association recommends exercising five to Photo courtesy of Thoratec Corporation

Heart Healthy Habits High cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and secondhand smoke are all risk factors associated with heart disease. The good news is that heart disease can often be prevented by making healthy choices and managing existing health conditions. Good habits according to the American Heart Association include: n

Select fat-free, 1% fat and low-fat dairy products.


Use spices to season food instead of salt.


Choose heart-healthy fats over saturated fats and trans fats.


Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.


Purchase and consume foods lower in sodium/salt.



Limit foods that are high in dietary cholesterol. Try to eat less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day. Choose more whole grains, legumes, fresh produce and low-fat dairy products.


Choose lean meat and poultry.


Include fish in your diet.


Lose weight if you are overweight.


Practice portion control at all meals.


Become physically active for 30 to 60 minutes a day.


Manage stress.

Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. Stop smoking. n Drink alcohol in moderation. n n

seven days a week,” Stahls says. “The exercise can be something as easy as taking a walk, but the key is to elevate your heart rate for at least 30 minutes to get the most cardiovascular benefit. It is also paramount that you lose any excess weight you may be carrying around. Extra weight puts strain on your heart: It has to work even harder than it should when you are overweight. Also, no one knows for sure if they are genetically predisposed to heart disease, so I would recommend to prepare for the worst and don’t take any chances — go ahead and take the necessary precautions by eating healthy and exercising, and by all means stop smoking.” n february 2017


Perspectives | Law

Attorneys Embrace New Workforce Era Local professionals talk about what they expect to see under Trump. By suzanne ferrara


february 2017


collective sigh of relief is coming from many Greater New Orleans businesses and workforce law attorneys. After eight consecutive years of tough regulations — including executive orders made by the former president — a new era is dawning, and many who have had to work with those regulations are encouraged by what they’re hearing. “For businesses and employers, it’s a new day!” exclaims David Whitaker with Kean Miller. “The employer community is really chomping at the bit for major change!” adds Brooke Duncan III, partner with Adam and Reese. “I have never encountered a federal administration that was so hostile towards the workplace, to those who manage the workplace, as I have in the last eight years,” continues Duncan. In addition to a new president, various vacancies will soon be filled that will directly affect workforce law regulations — including new appointees from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a new Supreme Court judge and numerous federal judgeships — the hope is that the new government will take a different view. “President Trump’s stated hostility toward overregulation of business provides the greatest hope to local businesses who have been struggling to keep up with the f lood of new regulations and new regulatory interpretations,” says Ed Harold, regional managing partner with Fisher & Phillips. Duncan concurs, “I expect a rollback of eight years of rather aggressively anti-employer agency actions by the Obama administration.” The collective anger strems from a plethora of controversial agency directives that have been handed down primarily from the National Labor Board and the National Labor Relations Board. These orders include the call for elections to be held among unions, and directions on employee rights in using email and social media and the use of profanity against supervisors. And those topics, suggest Duncan, are just some examples of the tough regulations. “Managers have been tearing their hair out trying to understand how to run their workplaces in a way that doesn’t run afoul with these agencies.” Harold says that in some cases federal agencies have also been misinterpreting the laws, for example, the EEOC’s (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) decision that Title VII prohibits discrimination on account of sexual orientation in spite of what he says are 50 years of case authority to the contrary. “And that is just one such situation,” he adds. “Whether or not this is good policy is for Congress, not the agency, to decide.” President Trump’s choices are expected to have a stronger proemployer inf luence, but that doesn’t mean that employees will not see positive change. President Trump stated during his campaign that raising the federal minimum wage to “at least $10”, a 2.75-percent increase, is a reasonable move. Also proposed is six weeks of guaranteed paid maternity leave, plus a plan to lower child-care costs for working mothers, both of which Trump recommended during his campaign. According to a campaign fact sheet, the second item, lowering child-care costs for working parents, calls to “rewrite the tax code to allow working parents to deduct child-care expenses from their income taxes for up to four children and elderly dependents.” The white-collar overtime exemption rule, which qualifies salaried employees earning less than $913 a week for overtime pay when they exceed 40 hours a week, is also up for debate. Despite an appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court, any ruling could be overturned by one of President Trump’s new appointees. “Trump’s appointee to the Department of Labor, Andrew Puzder, is a february 2017


servative businessman who has never been in politics and who is an avowed critic of what he terms over-regulation of business by government,” explains Walter Christy, director of Coats Rose. He is likely to take steps to reverse or suspend the overtime rules, as well as efforts to establish a federal minimum wage.” Businesses also need to be prepared for bottom-line repercussions from the possible elimination of the landmark Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Vice-President Mike Pence stated Trump would prioritize repealing the health care law right “out of the gate” and begin the process of replacing it with “free-market solutions.” Christy advises, “The rescission of the Affordable Care Act could also negatively impact some businesses, particularly small businesses, which have relied on the act to provide coverage.” Perhaps one of the biggest, and most expected, policy-driven changes is one of immigration reform, which has been the linchpin of the president’s campaign platform. In fact, preparation by employers, their legal counsel, and immigrant workers have been long underway. George Fowler, III, a Cuban-born immigrant and founding partner of Fowler Rodriguez, an international pro-immigration firm located in Louisiana, is quick to give his opinion before forecasting what he thinks is in store. “While we should protect our borders, I think the immigrants in this country have made this country what it is, and legal Latin Americans who came to New Orleans have contributed greatly to the rebuilding of the city.” As for his clients — many of whom are companies that fre66

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President Trump stated during his campaign that raising the federal minimum wage to “at least $10,” a 2.75-percent increase, is a reasonable move. Also proposed is six weeks of guaranteed paid maternity leave.

quently employ immigrants — “They are going to have to be careful on how they select their employees, and be sure they have their papers; otherwise there could be repercussions,” he says. Solid advice since, under Trump, the government is expected to increase I-9 form (employment eligibility) audits. Additionally, Trump vowed to mandate the E-Verify program, for all U.S. workers, if he was elected president. (E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s I-9 form with other government records like the Social Security Administration archives). Fowler also offers this guidance to immigrants working for these businesses: “I would encourage any immigrant worried about his status to fix his or her immigration papers and get the advice of counsel.” Also on the alteration block are temporary visa programs like the H1-Bs, which allows employers to hire highly skilled foreign workers. Whether or not the number of visas will be slashed to encourage American hires remains to be seen, and while Fowler believes the opposite will happen, he does add a caveat. “I think he (Trump) is going to expand temporary visas for foreign workers and make it easier for a person who wants to come in during a particular season to work; and there are going to be a lot more restrictions on what they can do, and then they will have to leave and go back to their country.” But what will actually happen with immigration reform remains Photo Gage Skidmore

Under Trump, the government is expected to increase I-9 form (employment eligibility) audits.

to be seen. “We don’t know what Trump is going to do; he says some strange things: The notion of taking 12 million people out is impossible to do,” Fowler continues. “It doesn’t make sense, and I don’t think he is going to separate families. They’re scared to death and petrified of being separated from their families, children and parents.” Whitaker believes it is imperative for attorneys and employees alike to stay on top of all the pending changes to workforce law. “I think the best advice in preparing for any of these possible changes is to keep careful track of developments on these issues and to begin game planning as to how your business will implement them,” he advises. Due in part to appointed terms under the previous administration that have yet to expire (including crucial posts like the NLRB’s general counsel, which will expire in another year), no one is expecting changes to occur quickly. “My words of advice are patience and vigilance,” says Whitaker. “Also, keep in mind that the federal government is a behemoth, and it will take time to reverse the course from what we have seen during the last eight years… from a government agency perspective.” Common sense, fairness and balance is Christy’s message. “While there is a need for some relief for businesses, with regard to federal regulation and oversight, it is hoped that the Trump administration does not go so far in its changes as to unreasonably curtail employee rights and benefits. There has to be a balancing act there, and Trump will be the key to maintaining the balance.” n Photo Thikstock february 2017


Guest Viewpoint

Back to Our Roots This year’s GNO Inc. annual meeting will celebrate New Orleans’ return to global relevance.


Michael Hecht is president and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc., the economic development organization for Southeast Louisiana. Under Michael’s leadership, GNO, Inc. was recently named the No. 2 economic development organization in the United States by Business Facilities magazine. 68

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reater New Orleans has always been global. Our political history is French and Spanish, with large English, German and other inf luences. Demographically, New Orleans evolved as a rich “ethnic gumbo,” with contributions from Africa to Scandinavia, and Portugal to Asia. Economically, New Orleans was founded as a global port, with the Mississippi River providing access for the United States to the world, and the Crescent City as the nexus of the Latin American economy. But a few decades ago, we began to let our global birthright slip. Starting in the late 1960s, international energy businesses migrated to Houston. Miami took the mantle of “Gateway to the Americas,” and Atlanta’s airport — thanks to a former Louisiana airline, Delta — became the busiest in the world. New Orleans didn’t become less loved by the world — that’s unthinkable — but it became less relevant. Greater New Orleans, once a hub of commerce

and industry, became more of a cultural spoke. In a world that is increasingly “flat” and connected, this loss of relevance is pernicious, because regions that are connected into the global web benefit from a reinforcing cycle of money, talent and ideas, while those left out struggle evermore to retain these very same key assets. The evidence for Greater New Orleans’ decline is hard to dispute: From 1970 until Hurricane Katrina, our region underperformed the nation by nearly 50 percent in terms of job creation. While cities like Austin and Tampa soared, we stagnated. New Orleans became a place to visit (for vacation, for a convention, for college), but not a place to stay (for a job, for a startup, for a family). Then came the unprecedented disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Many thought that Katrina was the sad but inevitable end to a once great global city. Headlines advised us: “Don’t Rebuild.” Pundits wondered why New Orleans had ever been built so close to the water, anyway. Photo by Brian Pierce

Yuhuang Chemical, one of China’s leading chemical companies, broke ground on its $1.85 billion methanol complex in St. James Parish in Sept. 2015.

But then something remarkable happened. Fueled by billions in investment and even greater personal commitment, our region began to rebuild — but not the previous iteration of New Orleans from August 28, 2005. We went “back to the future,” and began to resurrect a New Orleans that was once again a world-class city. Forthrightly addressing the syndrome of challenges that had undermined New Orleans for decades —‘ from education to corruption to economic development — we began to build a New Orleans that was once again global in aspiration and relevance. Our efforts resoundingly paid off this year, when British Airways announced it would start direct New Orleans-to-London service in March 2017, the first direct, nonstop service to Europe since 1982. British Airways was joined by Condor, which will start service in May to Frankfurt. Copa Airlines has also begun nonstop service to Panama City, reopening the Gateway to the Americas. Louis Armstrong International Airport now has more international destinations than ever and is one of the fastestgrowing airports in the nation. The international capstone on our revitalized airport is the new terminal under construction, designed by star architect César Pelli of Argentina. Greater New Orleans is going global in other substantive ways as well. Spurred by some of the most attractive business conditions in the country, companies from around the world are investing tens of billions of dollars in southeastern Louisiana, making us No. 1 in the USA for “foreign direct investment” per capita. Dyno Nobel from Australia; Yuhuang from China; Cajo from Finland; Gameloft from France; Denka from Japan; IT Minerals from Mexico; EuroChem from Russia; Blade Dynamics from England. We even got Collision, an Irish-owned technology conference, to move to New Orleans from Las Vegas. New Orleans is now a global thought-leader as well. Our RES/CON conference is quickly establishing itself as the Photo courtesy courtesy of Yuhuang Chemical

“Davos of resilience,” bringing global academics, practitioners and companies to New Orleans to share best practices. And GNO, Inc. now regularly welcomes delegations from as far as Japan, New Zealand and even Iraq who are seeking our advice on how to better manage water and live in a changing environment. To paraphrase Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans is becoming the world’s “most immediate laboratory for innovation and change.” But perhaps most significantly, people from around the world are voting with their feet. New Orleans led the nation in 2016 in international tourism growth, at a stunning 37 percent. The city was also No. 1 in the United States in foreign-born migration growth, over 25 percent (beating out Washington, D.C.). It is one thing for Travel + Leisure to name New Orleans a “Top Ten City in the World;” it is quite another to see this accolade borne out in actual tourism and migration patterns. In recognition of this return to global form, the theme of GNO, Inc.’s 2017 Annual Meeting will be “GNO Global.” At this gathering of over 1,000 regional business and civic leaders, we will enjoy a film on the global history of Greater New Orleans, narrated by Tulane geographer Richard Campanella. We will also review the historic wins of 2016, which culminated with an $8.5 billion LNG announcement, one of the largest in the country. Finally, we will discuss the year ahead, and what we have to do as a region to consolidate our rediscovered global status, and ensure that the world-class future of Greater New Orleans is one that creates opportunity for all of its citizens. So please join us at GNO Global on Monday, February 13, at the Hyatt Regency. Networking begins at 11 a.m., with the program from noon to 1 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at initiatives/annual-meeting/ Thank you for making GNO global again. n february 2017


PUBLISHER’S NOTICE: All real estate advertised herein is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Ace and the Louisiana Open Housing Act, which make it illegal to advertise any preference, limitation, or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination. We will not knowingly accept any advertising for real estate which is in violation of the law. For more information, call the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-273-5718.


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E S T A T E february 2017


Great Offices

Industrial Strength 72

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The designers at StudioWTA are thinking inside the box — the box factory, that is. By melanie warner Spencer


t the StudioWTA offices in the Warehouse District, the goal is to promote collaboration and innovation. Housed in a circa-1937 former box factory, the architectural firm is known for its myriad adaptive reuse projects, including residential developments like the Rice Mill Lofts, the St. Joseph Condominiums and the adjacent Lengsfield Lofts in the Warehouse District (which were part of the former box company). With soaring ceilings, rustic wood trusses, a f lood of natural light and pristine exposed brick, the airy space highlights major aspects of the firm’s work. “Our big thing was to illustrate a creative response to the place to market who we are as designers,” says Wayne Troyer, partner and design director. “We like old buildings, and old buildings can be used in creative ways. We use it as a show house.”

StudioWTA is housed in a circa-1937 former box factory at 1119 Tchoupitoulas St. The original exposed brick, wooden trusses and concrete floors, as well as cast in place concrete platforms that used to be the mounts for the press, provide a glimpse at the building’s past.

Photo Jeff Johnston february 2017


1 1-The architectural firm’s office serves as a “show house,” demonstrating the company’s passion for using old buildings in a creative new way. 2- High ceilings extend from the reception area into the adjacent conference room. The polycarbonate walls and oversized sliding doors were created by David Borgerding.


The reception area has a sinker cypress desk custom designed by WTA and fabricated by David Gregor.

At A Glance Company Name: StudioWTA Address: 1119 Tchoupitoulas St. Office completed: Architect: StudioWTA — Wayne Troyer and Tracie Ashe Interior Designer: StudioWTA Furnishings: Studio shelf and room divider by Cubitec shelving (Doron Lachisch for DWR); Teknion Contessa chairs at the desks and Haworth X-99 chairs in the conference room; Knoll Bertoia diamond lounge chair with full covers in the foyer; Glass “white” boards by Clarus. Budget: $560,000 Main goal: An open and collaborative environment to foster interaction, creativity and exchange of ideas. Biggest Challenge: The fabric of the original construction and the volume of the space — how to arrange space to fulfill requirements, while maintaining the open quality of the building and celebrating the existing, historic materials and textures. Standout Feature: The interaction between the existing elements and the new materials and contemporary interventions — modern architecture as an insertion into a historic structure that both complements and contrasts the existing building, making a clear distinction between old and new.


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Photos Zack Smith, Jeff Johnston, and Neil Alexander

The reception area sets the stage between the juxtaposition of old and new, with a sinker cypress desk custom designed by WTA and fabricated by David Gregor, two Knoll Bertoia diamond lounge chairs with full covers and artwork by New Orleans artist Mary Jane Parker. High ceilings extend from the reception area into the adjacent conference room on the left and the main, open concept office area. These spaces are separated by polycarbonate walls and oversized sliding doors created by David Borgerding. “When people come in they are taken aback by the ceilings,” says Julie Babin, partner, who cites the sheer volume of the space as one of her favorite elements. “They are about 18 feet.” The main office area has desks custom-designed by WTA and fabricated by several local wood and metal fabricators. The shared two-person center desk is by David Gregor; Sandra Tomasetti did the individual desks; additional wood and steel individual desks are by Daniel Bel (wood) and Bobby Blanchard (steel). Tracie Ashe, partner and project manager, says despite being so close to Interstate 10, the office is quiet. She also says large windows on the freeway-facing side of the offices and conference room not only provide significant natural light, but also frame the view of the highway in a surprisingly beautiful way. The combination of wood and steel furniture throughout the offices complements the industrial architectural elements of the space. “We really wanted to tell the story about what this building was,” Photo Zack Smith

A spiral metal staircase leads up to the loft, which houses additional desks, as well as the materials library. David Gregor fabricated the railing and perforated metal sides. The conference room is visible from the loft via cutouts in the wall, offering a link to what could otherwise be the most closed off area of the space.

says Troyer. “A lot of the structural materials and textures were all left in place — those beautiful building trusses, the brick and two large, cast-in-place concrete platforms that used to be the mounts for the press. It reinforces that this was an industrial space.” The concrete f loors were cleaned and polished and the team added a galley kitchen and bathroom, as well as a loft for additional desks and the materials library. A second bathroom was added recently and like the rest of the space, provided a chance to experiment and serve as an example of several finishes and design elements the firm can offer clients. “There’s always this moment where there is a dialogue between the new and the historic,” says Troyer. A spiral metal staircase leads up to the loft. Gregor fabricated the railing and perforated metal sides. The conference room is visible from the loft via cutouts in the wall, offering a link to what could be the most closed off area of the space. “Almost all areas connect to the studio,” says Ashe. “Design is the most important thing and everything else stems from there.” n february 2017


Why Didn’t I Think of That? Creative Businesses Taking Hold in Southeast Louisiana

“you have to look at what you do well, and for us that means reading every customer that comes through the door.” - Painting with a Twist Co-owner, Renee Maloney


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A Brush With Fame Hot off an appearance on CBS’ hit reality show, “Undercover Boss,” Painting with a Twist Co-owner Renee Maloney shares how a simple idea to bring women together and have a good time has now

become the fastest-growing franchise in the nation. By Kim Singletary


he idea is simple: spend a few hours at a laid-back art studio with good friends drinking, relaxing and learning stepby-step how to paint a picture you can take home with you when you leave. Over the past decade, however, this simple casual entertainment concept has spawned an entire “paint and sip” industry with an estimated 200 wine-and-painting party companies across the United States and Canada, according to a 2014 statistic from the Small Business Association. A mixture of art, drinking, and just having a good time, it’s not surprising that the creators of the first-ever — and still largest — paintand-sip franchise hail from New Orleans, Louisiana. Renee Maloney and Cathy Deano (now residents of Mandeville) are the owners of Painting with a Twist. Created in 2007, the company currently includes 325 locations in 37 states that employ approximately 2,200 people. In January, Painting with a Twist was rated the No. 1 paint-andsip studio in the country for the fourth year in a row on Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Not only a leader in its category, the company also claimed the title this year of fastest-growing franchise. Last year Painting with a Twist experienced 25 percent growth, with 40 percent of franchise owners running multiple locations. The company’s tremendous success recently caught the attention of the hit CBS reality show “Undercover Boss.” Now in its eighth season, the show invites big-name company executives to disguise themselves and go undercover as an entry-level employee to get an inside look at what’s really going on at their business. Past executives have hailed from companies including Build-a-Bear, Wienerschnitzel, NASCAR, Chiquita Brands International, Choice Hotels, 7-Eleven, Subway, Frontier Airlines and Popeyes. Maloney jumped at the opportunity last fall and the Painting with a Twist episode aired on January 4. Goals for the company are currently to reach 700 stores nationwide, and Maloney says there’s even thought of going international. From a humble Mandeville storefront in 2007 to the foundation of a whole new industry, the growth of Painting with a Twist can only be described as fast and furious — and it all came from two PTA moms looking for a way to stay busy and give back in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Photo Cheryl Gerber february 2017


School Fundraisers Turned Industry Pioneers “I met Cathy when my youngest was in kindergarten — we were co-room moms together,” says Maloney. “We started doing fundraising together for things like computers and the school art program, and it turns out we were really good at it.” Maloney says that Deano, a trained interior designer, is the more artsy side of the duo. “She was more vested in the community and served as president of the art association.” Maloney, on the other hand, would never call herself artistic. “I actually failed out of art class; they asked me to leave the class,” she says. With more of a head for numbers, Maloney was spending 10 days a month running her father’s orthodontic practice in New Orleans when two met. “Along with a lot of other things, I was in charge of sales,” she says. “My dad is a great businessman. I’ve learned so much from him.” When Hurricane Katrina struck, the successful school fundraisers went in search of a new way they could give back to the community while also providing themselves with jobs. “We would walk by the lake every day and discuss ideas,” Maloney says. “Then one day some friends — John Hodge and Francis Rich — proposed the idea of doing speed art (similar to the kind of Bob Ross style). “At first I thought, ‘No way. I’m a horrible painter,’ but then Cathy said, ‘What if we could drink?’” With the help of Deano’s sister’s stepdaughter, an artist and yoga teacher, the two women gathered about 20 friends and held their first class. “We painted this Matisse painting — a woman with big lips,” Maloney says. “We didn’t even drink actually, but it was a lot of fun. At the end I asked everyone three questions: Did you have fun? Would you do it again? And would you pay for it? The answers were all yes, so we thought, ‘Let’s do it!’” Maloney and Deano soon leased their first storefront. “It was definitely nothing fancy, but it was on a four-way stop on the bus route and really convenient from our homes,” Maloney says. “It had great front windows.” Ideas for paintings commonly from local retailers. “We looked at the art sold in stores like TJ Maxx, Pier 1 and Neiman Marcus,” Maloney says. “We basically just looked at what people were buying and created our own.” Instructors commonly create their own art pieces that they teach to the class. Whatever they create becomes the property of Painting with a Twist. “We now have over 9,000 pieces of copyrighted art,” Maloney says. Public classes are typically $35 per person for a two-hour painting and $45 for a three-hour painting. Kids are a bit cheaper — $25 and $35. Alcohol is welcome but on a B.Y.O.B. basis.

"We're Onto Something" During the first year in business, Maloney says there was one special night that told both women that they might have found a niche. “We had a full class of 38 women on a summer night and we were having a great time — the music was playing, the wine was f lowing — and then suddenly, as happens often in Mandeville, the power went out,” Maloney says. “We’re sitting there in the dark and I start explaining that we’ll of course refund their money or reschedule for another time and them women just collectively said, ‘No.’ They 78

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The company, which now boasts more than 300 franchises nationwide, was formed in 2007 by New Orleans natives (now Mandeville residents) Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney.

refused to leave! A few of them actually pulled their cars around to face the front windows and turned their lights on so we could keep partying. Cathy and I couldn’t believe it.” Before they did, eventually, leave, Maloney asked them why they stayed. “They told me, ‘You don’t understand. This is the first time we’ve been able to really get away for a while and not think about the f looding, the kids and the bills.” Painting with a Twist had clearly created a unique, fun, escape from the daily grind that people craved.

Giving Back

In forming the company in the post-Katrina landscape, an essential part of Painting with a Twist has always been giving back. The company’s charitable arm, Painting with a Purpose, raises money for local charities through monthly events at all locations. To date, more than $3.25 million has been raised. This past July, that core value came full circle when Painting with a Twist launched its own nonprofit organization, The Painting with a Purpose Foundation, dedicated to giving back to Painting with a Twist artists to further their education and cover expenses due to illnesses, family crises or other emergency situations.

How Big is Too Big? After only a year in business, in 2008 Painting with a Twist added two locations — one in Metairie and one in Baton Rouge. “In 2009, within two weeks we had three separate people that didn’t know each other tell us we needed to franchise,” Maloney says. “So we found someone to help us do that.” In May and June of 2009, the company opened in Louisiana, Florida and Texas. A majority of the franchisees started as customers and then fell in love. “People buy into it; they love it,” Maloney says. Soon, what started as an idea for a ladies night out, branched out to include kids camps, date nights, birthdays, corporate teambuilding and even bridal events where the bride paints free. The way Maloney describes the businesses growth is simple: “Doors kept opening and we kept walking through them.” The two weren’t exactly in agreement when it came to growth though. “Cathy was really happy with one store,” Maloney says. “In my mind I thought that we would do 10 and then retire to Bali, but then it’s like we blinked and we were at 30, then 100.” Last year the company broke into four new states and celebrated its 5 millionth customer. Of the 67 new franchise agreements signed, 32 percent were by existing owners.

Reality TV Comes Calling With the business growing so rapidly, Maloney says the women began to have a few concerns. “We used to be at every grand opening, but now we just can’t get to them all,” she says. “There are locations that we’ve never seen, and of course we wonder if there are problems we aren’t hearing about or ways we could improve.” Last fall Maloney and Disguised as “Savannah” an entryDeano were given a rare level employee of Painting With a Twist, opportunity to answer Maloney went undercover in her own business this past fall for CBS’ reality these questions with show, “Undercover Boss.” an invite to appear on “Undercover Boss.” “I’ve always been a huge fan of the show,” Maloney says. “I watch it every week and have done so for years. So I was blown away when they came to us.” The chance to get an undercover look at their own company, however, involved giving up a lot of control. “You have to really sign your life away,” Maloney says. “The show chooses everything — what your disguise will be, what you’ll be doing, what locations you’ll be going to — and nothing is scripted.” For Maloney, creating her new alter ego, Savannah, involved bleaching her hair blonde, wearing fake glasses and staining her teeth

— something she said her orthodontist father found hard to see. Over about a week, Maloney was sent to franchises in San Antonio and Rockwall, Texas, and one in Royersford, Pennsylvania. In each she was tasked with teaching a class — something she had never done before. Maloney was also sent to a warehouse in Hammond, Louisiana, where her job was to check hundreds of canvases one by one for defects.

Lessons Learned Undercover In addition to learning that she is not cut out to teach painting classes, Maloney says her biggest takeaway from the show was that not only franchise owners, but instructors and customers were embracing the company’s main goals of a fun and supportive culture. Not everything was rosy, however. One instructor in Rockwell complained that she had created many original paintings that had been very popular, but the company didn’t compensate artists financially. The franchise owner in Royersford shared that he had to invest his own money to learn valuable social media tips to help his business grow. In addition to handing out thousands of dollars — and even an entire franchise location to the instructor in Rockwell — Maloney says her goal at the end of the show was to make sure the people she met knew that their concerns were being heard. “We’ve implemented a lot of changes since the show was taped in October,” she says. Included among them are a new seating chart (Maloney struggled with the current system while working at the front desk), a new training portal for artists, and the establishment of an Artist’s Advisory Council, among whose goals is to work out a compensation method for artists who create original work.

The Future for "Fun Art, Not Fine Art" Spurred by their experience on the show, both women have made it a company goal to keep communication lines as open and honest as possible through things like their “Power Hours” — monthly town hall-style conversations with franchisees. Powering ahead, the company is aiming for 60 new studios in 2017, with a special focus on Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York. Always seeking to innovate, the company has launched a new class — Paint Your Pet — where customers submit a drawing of their pet ahead of their scheduled class and an artist sketches it out and then helps them paint it. Customers are also invited to upgrade to a new offering, a Bluetooth canvas that plays music off of any mobile device for an additional $90 fee. With growing competition, Maloney says she feels the key to the company’s continued success is all about creating a perfectly tailored experience. “You have to look at what you do well, and for us that means reading every customer that comes through the door and learning what they want. Do they want a peaceful evening or a party? Do they always prefer to sit in the front right chair? We keep notes on everything and that helps us treat everyone like they’re family. And it is a family. If you treat your staff like you want them to treat your customer, success will follow.” n february 2017



“We’re fortunate; we have plenty of room for expansion. We’re well suited for the next few decades. But what will things look like 40 to 50 years from now? We have to keep a long view.”


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Photo Cheryl Gerber

Taking Helm the

Less than one month on the job, Brandy Christian, the new CEO of the Port of New Orleans, discusses her vision for the future. By Chris Price


n January 1, Brandy Christian was promoted to president and chief executive of the Port of New Orleans, a public agency that manages $61 million in revenues, 292 employees and $200 million annually in capital projects. She is the first woman to lead the organization in its 120year history and one of the few female port directors in the country. Christian is a certified port executive and commercial investment manager candidate who came to the port in 2015, after a nationwide search, to serve as its chief operating officer. Before coming to the Crescent City, she held leadership positions with the Port of San Diego for 14 years, culminating in her role as vice president for strategy and business development. There she oversaw business development initiatives related to cruise development, maritime import and export opportunities, along with industrial leases. Prior to joining the Port of San Diego, Christian worked for KPMG Consulting as a quality management consultant, as well as the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and Fleishman-Hilliard Inc. She succeeds Gary LaGrange, who served as president and chief executive officer for the past 15 years. Christian recently sat for a Q&A with Biz New Orleans to discuss her vision for the Port of New Orleans. The interview has been edited for clarity and length. february 2017


Biz New Orleans: What would you say are the Port of New Orleans’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (S.W.O.T.)? Brandy Christian: We’ve been focused on this as part of our master planning process. About six months ago we embarked on renewing our master plan, really looking at business opportunities in the next 20 years. First and foremost, one of our greatest strengths is our geography, being located on the Mississippi River, having access to so many large markets via the waterways. That’s a natural strength that we’ll always have, and really is what we have to capitalize on the most. Next is our inland assets — the river system, six Class 1 railways and the interstate highway system. We can offer multiple ways for a shipper to get in and out of New Orleans, whether it’s by road, rail, barge or ship. That really sets us apart. Another thing is our real estate holdings. We have a large jurisdiction — 25 miles of waterfront. We have a lot of available space, and that’s not something every port has. Weaknesses — and this affects all ports and businesses — are global market conditions. There is shipping and commodity f luctuation due to market conditions and trade regulations. It’s a shifting industry, so we have to navigate through, be very agile, and respond to and have a good understanding of our partners, our customers, shippers and carriers. We have a lot of opportunities in front of us. What we need to do now is prioritize them, figure out where we put our time and resources so that we can get the best possible return not only for the port, but also for the state and surrounding communities. We have a state leadership who understands our challenges and is looking to help with economic development projects that bring in new business. The Port of New Orleans has benefited from the state’s investment in the chemical industry. The state brought in chemical production plants and that’s led to some of our greatest growth in our container shipping side. I think with the continuing growth of the petro-chemical industry, we’ll see a continued positive impact on the port. As far as threats, shipping is a very competitive industry. Ports are very expensive infrastructure. There’s always need for maintenance and capital for improvements. The Port of New Orleans doesn’t have a tax base. We’re all self-generated. Our competitors on the Gulf Coast have pretty significant investments either coming in the form of collected taxes or through state incentives. Getting resources to stay ahead of the curve is essential. We’re fortunate; we have plenty of room for expansion. We’re well suited for the next few decades. But what will things look like 40 to 50 years from now? We have to keep a long view. Biz: Will the expanded Panama Canal and the opening of Cuba impact New Orleans? BC: The predictions for the Panama Canal and growth on the East and Gulf coasts have been all over the place. We know that there will be some natural market growth on the East and Gulf coasts from the West Coast. Our market forecasts are predicting 2 to 5 percent growth a year in our cargo business. There are also some opportunities for new cargos that we traditionally haven’t gone after that could give us a jump. New Orleans was one of the largest traders with Cuba. We have historical and cultural ties to Cuba. There, the cruise industry is a natural opportunity. It would be great to add them as one of our destinations, as it’s an attractive itinerary option to tourists. They could also become a trans-shipment hub as well, which could present opportunities for container trade too. It will take a while 82

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“The state brought in chemical production plants and that’s led to some of our greatest growth in our container shipping side,” she says.

Christian says the expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to result in some growth in the port’s cargo business and possibly open up new opportunities.

for the investments in Cuba, but in that time, it’s going to require the shipping of construction and household goods to build the infrastructure. We’ll need to continue trade missions and economic development to foster those relationships. Biz: What plans do you have for port properties near the Industrial Canal? BC: That’s another major focus of our master plan. At the end of the day, a port is really about real estate, property management and what you want to do with that land. When the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) was closed and the container terminal moved Uptown, our focus was getting those businesses transferred and up and running. We’ve had some tenants move in — The Kearney Companies and TCI — but we’re really thinking about the canal and how we build it out with the opportunities present. As a shallow draft waterfront, maybe that becomes more of an industrial park with value-added features for shippers, like warehousing, packaging and distribution. february 2017


Christian with her executive team.

Biz: Will accessing the port’s terminals be part of the discussion? BC: Yes. As volumes grow, we will have to ensure easy access in and out. We can invest in our terminals, but some of the investments that need to happen on the multi-modal side are not in our direct control. I think there is a real opportunity, synergy and desire between our regional and state transportation planners to come up with improved access routes to and from our terminals as an economic development investment. In the past year, we’ve been coming together for initial discussions, and there will be more. We’re looking at which potential projects would give the greatest access with the least impact to our neighbors. Biz: How will the Army Corps of Engineers’ discussion about dredging and maintaining the lower Mississippi River’s depth at 50 feet impact the port? BC: We’ve had some challenges with siltation and depth f luctuations in the river. Last spring the Corps struggled to maintain the river’s depth at 47 feet, and even restricted ship’s draft to 43 feet, then to 41, before getting it back to 43. Any depth that we can gain gives us that much more f lexibility — not just here, but up and down the river. It’s a necessary and smart move as part of a long-term strategy. The industry continues to invest in larger ships. The need for deeper water is going to continue to be there. Biz: The Port of New Orleans and the World Trade Center have traditionally been male-dominated organizations in New Orleans, but are now headed by women. Can you talk about that change and its potential impact on the region? BC: The Port and World Trade Center have a long history of partnership. We have a very aligned mission and cause in facilitating trade. Those partnerships are important. Caitlin (Cain) was one of the first people I met when I came to New Orleans. She’s incredibly dynamic, very visionary. I think she’ll bring great 84

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Port of New Orleans CEO Brandy Christian at a glance Education - master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California; bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Arizona Honors - Alumna of the Year (2015) by the University of Arizona; Top Female Achiever (2016) by New Orleans Magazine; recipient of the Examiner of the Year by the California Award for Performance Excellence; Biz New Orleans Business Couple of the Year 2016, with her husband, Frank Christian, NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale Interests - Certified Six Sigma Green Belt

energy. There are lots of new ideas. The World Trade Center will be a partner in helping to continue to improve maritime offerings in New Orleans and the state. Biz: Are there some New Orleans idiosyncrasies you’ve come to appreciate? BC: The first time I came here was for a weeklong maritime training, and I just fell in love with the city. There was just a buzz, an energy you could feel. And the people were so incredibly friendly. There’s a sense of community — coming from such a transient place as Southern California — that was just infectious. Everybody seems to know each other. From a business perspective, it makes things so much easier to get things done. It’s easier to meet people and network, compared to Los Angeles where I could go to a mixer every night and know just 1 percent of the business community. This is definitely different. It’s an international city with a small city feel. n

Photo Cheryl Gerber february 2017


Events 2016 New Orleans Chamber Annual Meeting Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hyatt Regency

St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation Annual Luncheon & 35th Anniversary Celebration Thursday, December 15, 2016

Benedict’s Plantation The New Orleans chamber’s annual meeting was supposed to feature newly-elected Louisiana Senator, John Kennedy, but plans changed and GNO, Inc. President and CEO, Michael Hecht, stepped in.

The St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation (STEDF) celebrated its 35th anniversary at Benedict’s Plantation in Mandeville. The organization honored its long history of advocating for growth in the parish while sharing news of its most recent successes.







1. Dr. Charles Teamer, Melissa Gibbs and Larry Gibbs 2. Michael Hecht 3. Michael Palamone, Ben Johnson, John Gonzales and Rudy Gomez 86

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1. Bruce Clement and Shelby LaSalle 2. Brenda Bertus 3. Danny Schaus, Peter Link, Bruce Clement, Brenda Bertus, Shelby LaSalle, Martin Bruno and Warren Haun. Photos by Cheryl Gerber

ACG Louisiana January Luncheon

ABWA January Luncheon

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thurdsay, January 12, 2017

Roosevelt Hotel - Blue Room

Ralph Brennan’s Heritage Grill

Guest speakers Joseph Lovett and Rick Babb, both managing directors of Louisiana Funds, discussed venture capital and investing in Louisiana at the ACG’s January luncheon.

“How Stress in Your Life Affects Your Body” was the topic at the American Business Women’s Association Crescent City Connections monthly luncheon. The group welcomed Julie Thomas, physical therapy director at Slidell Memorial Hospital.







1. Britt Seal, Thomas Kimball and Hank Wolf 2. Joseph Lovett 3. Michelle Avery, Peggy Babin and Shannon Edmondson Photos by Cheryl Gerber

1. Josie Maselas, Amy Landry and Laura Prottsnial 2. Julia Thomas 3. Serah Ridolfo, Monica Kelly, Carol Soler and Shannon Edmonson february 2017


Photo by Jeff Johnston

Behind the Scenes

Walls of Fame

As artists performing at the House of Blues New Orleans descend the staircase toward the stage, they are surrounded by the venue’s Sold Out Walls. A feature since the musical powerhouse’s opening in 1994, the walls display the names of all the artists that have sold out their shows and how many times they have accomplished such a feat. *For a 360-degree view of this space and commentary, visit 88

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