BIZ NEW ORLEANS / JANUARY 2021 / EXECUTIVES OF THE YEAR
EXECUTIVES OF THE YEAR 11 WARRIORS IN THE BATTLE OF 2020
Quentin Messer CEO NEW ORLEANS BUSINESS ALLIANCE
CEO of the Year A COVID Silver Lining
These healthcare innovations are here to stay P. 32
Feel Like Throwing Something?
Stumpy's Hatchet House has just the thing P. 60
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
January VOLUME 07 ISSUE 04
FROM THE LENS
10 EDITOR’S NOTE 12 PUBLISHER’S NOTE 16 ON THE WEB
BANKING+FINANCE. . ... 30
How are companies using AI (artificial intelligence) to enhance the customer experience? HEALTHCARE................ 32
Local providers share how care has changed during the pandemic and what innovations are likely here to stay GREAT WORKSPACES.........................................................56
IN THE BIZ
Seven Three Distilling Co. takes its name and inspiration from New Orleans’ 73 neighborhoods and works to celebrate and support each one
The top employment law changes for 2021
DINING........................... 20 WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?. . .....................................60
A look at how the oldest family-owned restaurant in the country has fared during the pandemic
Feel like throwing something? How about an axe? Welcome to Stumpy’s Hatchet House, the region’s first axe throwing venue.
TOURISM. . ...................... 22
The River Parishes Tourist Commission launches free, selfled tour SPORTS .. ....................... 24
With a vaccine on the horizon, the sports industry is hoping for a rebound ENTREPRENEUR.......... 26
Fun predictions for 2021
GUEST. . ........................... 38
Investing with your values is growing in popularity, but challenges remain
ON THE JOB..........................................................................64
Executives of the Year A year like no other required leadership like never before
Celebrating its sixth year in business this month, GoodWood Nola’s custom creations can be found throughout the region — especially at bars and restaurants including District Donuts, Emeril’s and Longway Tavern. And now, anyone can bring a little GoodWood home.
ON THE COVER Quentin Messer, CEO, New Orleans Business Alliance Portrait by Edmund Fountain
Publisher Todd Matherne EDITORIAL Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Sarah George Digital Media Editor Kelly Massicot
And who wouldn’t want that after the year we’ve just had? Does anything really change from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1? No. But our mentality does, and that’s a powerful thing. There’s just something about wiping the slate clean that can make you feel like anything is possible, and man do we all need that boost right now. One thing 2020 did give us was an incredible class of Executives of the Year. This is the fifth year Biz New Orleans is honoring some of our region’s top leaders and every year is different. We purposely don’t set a number of spots to fill or industries we have to cover, instead we let the year’s events and news dictate who we choose to call attention to. This year, as our region and world were challenged in ways we’ve never seen before, we looked for the first time not to the biggest deal makers, but to the big helpers. We looked at the industries that have been — and continue to be — hit hardest, and within them sought out the innovators, the changemakers who are getting it done. And for our fifth CEO of the Year, the Biz team is thrilled to have Quentin Messer joining an elite group that includes past honorees Matt Schwartz and Chris Papamichael with The Domain Companies, Warner Thomas with Ochsner Health System, Michael Hecht with GNO, Inc., and Kevin Dolliole with the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Quentin continues to be an unapologetic cheerleader for New Orleans who, at the same time, leads a dynamic team determined to make sure the economy works for everyone. I can’t think of a better mission, especially now. I’ll end with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that I’m loving right now. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” A huge congratulations to all our 2020 Executives of the Year. Keep up the good fight! Happy New Year and thank you for reading, THAT’S WHAT A NEW YEAR MEANS.
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New Year, New Projects! LET'S GET THIS YEAR STARTED. AS WE KICK OFF
2021, Biz New Orleans and our parent company, Renaissance Publishing, have some great new projects lining up. As you may have seen in December, Biz New Orleans is launching a monthly speaker series with our first Business Forum guest interview, Steve Forbes. This event will take place on the second Wednesday of each month at 11 a.m. You can register for the Jan. 13 event at BizNewOrleans.com. I am also excited to announce that the Biz team is working on the first Biz 500 — a special publication from Biz New Orleans that will showcase the most influential leaders in the Greater New Orleans region across a wide spectrum of industries. This publication will unveil itself in the fourth quarter of 2021. If you would like to nominate someone for consideration, visit BizNewOrleans.com. If that is not exciting enough, New Orleans Magazine is kicking off a special citywide Mardi Gras contest on Jan. 6 — King’s Day. Look for the details soon at MyNewOrleans.com. Our New Orleans Bride Magazine, which annually hosts the city’s largest bridal shows, is turning the tables and hosting a Bridal Hop. Instead of hosting a show at one location, brides are invited to visit multiple venues to see vendors and locations. I invite you to visit BrideNewOrleans.com for details. We are excited about the start of 2021, and look forward to many more new projects in the works. Todd Matherne
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MEET THE SALES TEAM
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ON THE WEB BIZNE WORLE ANS.COM
Those business owners are the boosters of your soccer team. They employ your neighbors. And they are also spending money in the local community.
BIZ TALKS PODCAST
Maryann Miller of StayLocal on why it's important to patronize local businesses vs. Amazon.com
TO THE MOON NOLA! Robert C. Champion, director of the Michoud Assembly Facility, and John W. Bailey Jr., associate director of NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, talk about the role this region plays in space and the role both facilities play in our economy.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORTING LOCAL Maryann Miller of independent business alliance StayLocal, talks about the importance of supporting local business, especially now.
WHAT YOU MISSED ON BIZNEWORLEANS.COM
Businesses Saving the Coast “The state of Louisiana is fading before our eyes. It reminds me of the scene from the movie ‘Back to the Future’ when the protagonist is looking at a photograph of himself and his siblings, and if he doesn’t take corrective action they’ll simply vanish.” - James Karst, director of communications and marketing for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, speaking to weekly blogger Pamela Marquis on Nov. 30, about ways businesses can help save the coast, including sponsoring oyster reef development.
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WHAT'S UP WITH CITY PARK? City Park CEO Bob Becker explains how the current pandemic has been just as devastating as Hurricane Katrina was, and at a time when it's being valued and enjoyed maybe more than ever before. He also shares some surprising ways you can help ensure the park's survival. IMAGE: MARK GAGLIANO OF COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS INC.
In The Biz BIZ COLUMNISTS SPEAK OUT
DINING How is the oldest family-owned
restaurant faring in the pandemic?
TOURISM The River Parishes Tourist
Commission launches a new tour
SPORTS With a vaccine comes hope
for sports revenues to rebound
ENTREPRENEUR A little fun with the crystal ball for 2021
IN THE BIZ DINING
New Days for a Beloved Old Favorite A look at how the oldest familyowned restaurant in the country has fared during the pandemic. BY POPPY TOOKER
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E Y
A native New Orleanian, Poppy Tooker has spent her life devoted to the cultural essence that food brings to Louisiana, a topic she explores weekly on her NPR-affiliated radio show, Louisiana Eats! From farmers markets to the homes and restaurants where our culinary traditions are revered and renewed, Poppy lends the voice of an insider to interested readers everywhere.
The down time also allowed for much CHANGE COMES SLOWLY AT ANTOINE’S, THE oldest family-owned restaurant in the nation, culinary exploration. Antoine’s installed which will mark its 181st year of continuous their first smoker, allowing for the creation of new dishes like smoked pompano dip. Lee operation this year. Lisa Blount, wife of Rick Blount, the literally dreamed that one up, waking from current proprietor and CEO, laughs as she a sound sleep at 2:30 a.m. with the recipe recalls an early exchange between her and wholly formed in his head. “I quickly got up and wrote it down exactly her then-new husband. “Almost nine years ago, we were traveling, as we’re making it today,” he said. Served and I made a dinner reservation for us on with butter crackers and crudité, the new Open Table. To my surprise, Rick asked, menu item has proved quite popular. While only 25% of the former front-of'How did you do that?’” Apparently, Open Table had been pursuing Antoine’s busi- house staff have been able to return to work, ness for quite some time, but Rick Blount within two weeks of reopening last fall, the believed conforming to an online system just Blounts found themselves in need of a new wouldn’t work for them. He told Lisa, “We manager to guide the team that was left. can’t do that! People call their waiters for a That's when A.J. McAlear entered the picture. With over 30 years of experience in New reservation.” Rick’s grandfather, Roy Alciatore, would Orleans’ hospitality industry, McAlear is have been shocked by that whole conversa- a familiar face to many. Most recently, he tion. Back in the late 1940s, when Antoine’s served as sommelier and floor manager had a phone installed in the restaurant, at Emeril’s Delmonico, which was closed Alciatore was quite dismayed to learn that when he heard of the opening at Antoine’s. guests wanted to phone the restaurant McAlear regards his new position as “an for reservations. “People can’t call us!” he unexpected opportunity — a gift that almost proclaimed. “They need to write a letter to fell into my lap.” Interestingly, at the time he make a reservation!” a procedure established applied for the job he had only dined at the by his father, Jules, in the late 1800s. With historic establishment once. “Back in 1989, I was included at a birthday glee, Lisa Blount recalled that once Open Table was in place at Antoine’s, the guest celebration for Dan Mosley, thrown by our count increased over 15% in the first six mutual friend, Brobson Lutz,” he said. “How serendipitous that during my very first shift months. Sometimes change is not by choice, on the floor at Antoine’s, who walked in the however, as has been the case with COVID- door but Brobson!” Both in the front and back of the house, 19. From March 16 through Sept. 25, 2020, the restaurant was closed, the longest period life continues on and health safety concerns ever in its history. Despite the future’s remain paramount. Following CDC guideuncertainty, Rick Blount used that time lines, Lee instituted a new ritual in his busy to complete long-term projects, including kitchen. “We’ve got a 20-minute timer set,” adding an elevator and other related he stated, “and every time the buzzer goes off, we all sing a new little tune. ‘Wash your infrastructure. “The elevator was long overdue,” Rick hands everybody! Everybody wash your Blount said. “The steep staircase restricted hands!’” Good advice indeed in these difficult access for many of our guests. Now, the elevator also makes the waiter’s job easier times.n and opens future possibilities for use of our third and fourth floors.” The shutdown also gave Antoine’s chef, Rich Lee, an opportunity to upgrade and redesign the enormous kitchen. “We were able to increase efficiency by more than 25% by moving the hot line closer to the stoves, while adding prep tables closer to the kitchen door,” he said. Now during Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, service Lee serves as expeditor, inspecting “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and every plate before it leaves the kitchen. Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM.
IN THE BI Z TOURISM
America’s First Freedom March The River Parishes Tourist Commission launches free, self-led tour BY JENNIFER GIBSON SCHECTER
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
the story of the revolt. Visitors can scan QR codes with their phones to hear an audio tour at each location for free. The website supporting the trail offers historic details, and hosts the audio recordings of actors playing the roles of actual revolters. At the beginning of the trail people will hear the name and background of a revolter, and at the end of the trail they find out if the revolter escaped, if they were executed, or if they were forced back to their plantation. Destrehan Plantation will also have audio recordings of actors performing the manuscripts of the trial, giving voice to the revolters’ testimony, as well as those running the trial. “It was like a Salem witch trial — they were already [presumed] guilty,” said Boe. “The trial was just a process, and nobody cared what the actual verdict would be; it was just a matter of how they would be punished. We want that tone, which is in the manuscript, to come out and let the listener experience that perspective. We hope the contrast is stark because it needs to be.” The trail has its own logo and is being branded as “America’s First Freedom March,” with the trademark application filed. Visitors can extend their experience of the trail by visiting Whitney Plantation to see the 1811 Slave Revolt memorial, which has digital copies of the trial manuscripts and images of the defendents with their heads on stakes, designed to underscore the gravity of that moment in time. To give more context to the uplifting aspects of River Parish culture, people are also encouraged to visit Historic Riverlands Christian Center, which tells the story of African Americans after emancipation. A short film of the reenactment of the 1811 Slave Revolt is currently in production. “This project not only highlights a unique moment in our history as the River Parishes, but one in America’s history,” said Boe. “It helps us tell the conflict which always exists in the telling of our history, which is that we’re the site of our region’s wealthiest period. We had more millionaires in the River Parishes than the rest of America, and yet it was America’s darkest chapter, and it was because of that darkest chapter that we had the wealth." For more information on the trail, visit the1811slaverevolt.com. To learn more about the River Parishes, visit lariverparishes.com. n
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E Y
Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.
FOR MANY PEOPLE, THE EVENTS OF 2020
brought a realization of how incomplete a picture of American history they’ve been taught. From housing segregation to criminal justice issues, there is more to our country’s story than is taught in schools. Travel is one of the most effective ways to learn about the past and the River Parishes Tourist Commission has created an important new way to interact with local history with the 1811 Slave Revolt Trail. A quick history lesson: On Jan. 8, 1811, a group of enslaved people began one of the largest slave revolts in U.S. history on a plantation in LaPlace, Louisiana, which was then owned by Manuel Andry, and is now known as the 1811/Kid Ory Historic House. More than 500 enslaved people marched for three days downriver toward New Orleans, killing two men and burning some plantation structures en route. They made their way to Kenner, Louisiana, where they encountered a militia and were pushed back to present-day Norco (New Sarpy). A brutal battle and the trials that followed at Destrehan Plantation led to the execution of 100 of the revolutionaries. In a warning to other enslaved people, the heads of 40 of the dead were put on spikes in front of plantations stretching 60 miles along the Mississippi River in the River Parishes. The full extent and near success of the rebellion was suppressed in news coverage of the time and for many years the history of these freedom fighters was unknown. The River Parishes Tourist Commission is honoring the 210th anniversary of the revolt by opening the 1811 Slave Revolt Trail, an immersive tour marked with kiosks along River Road from the 1811/Kid Ory Historic House to Destrehan Plantation. “We hope to give the full, round breadth of what happened in this region, from the beautiful columns to the horrific tragedies in the field and everything in between,” said Buddy Boe, executive director of the River Parishes Tourist Commission. The trailhead at the 1811/Kid Ory Historic House — located at 1128 LA 628 in Laplace, — houses a collection that celebrates jazz trombonist Kid Ory, who was born in the quarters in 1886, as well as honors the participants of the revolt. The trail ends at Destrehan Plantation — located at 13034 River Road in Destrehan — where most of the trials took place and where the original manuscripts of the trials are preserved. At both trailheads and along 10 miles of River Road, eight kiosks provide visitors with
IN THE BIZ SPORTS
Don’t Call It A Comeback With a vaccine on the horizon, the sports industry is hoping for a rebound BY CHRIS PRICE
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
businesses are hoping the New Year will bring a change in their fortunes. While some leagues and events have returned with limited fan capacity, there is hope that the vaccines in production will wrangle the pandemic’s spread and return society to normal interactions. Meanwhile, the full economic impact of the disease and related safety protocols on the business of sports is unknown. Upriver in Baton Rouge, LSU’s athletic department says it expects to lose $80 million in revenue due to the impact of COVID-19. The Tigers lost home games when the SEC went to a 10-game, leagueonly schedule and have had limited fan capacity in place, too. The program has laid off some employees, eliminated bonuses and reduced salaries for staff who earn more than $80,000 by 5%, including football coach Ed Orgeron, men’s basketball coach Will Wade, and athletic director Scott Woodward. The move cost “Coach O” $300,000 of his $6 million annual salary. Closer to home, the New Orleans Saints saw their preseason eliminated. When the season did start, their “Domefield Advantage” was eliminated as fans weren’t allowed in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Forbes’ Darren Heitner has estimated that the Saints could lose up to $161 million in direct stadium revenue, and more than $44o million if the entire 2020 season be played without fans in attendance. As the season continued, limited capacity was ramped up to fewer than 15,000 — a far cry from the Dome's more than 72,000-person capacity. Still unquantifiable are how athletic programs — not to mention their local communities’ economies — will be affected long-term. Most of the operating revenue at athletic departments at state schools in the Power 5 conferences is generated from football-related sales, with 14% coming from ticket sales, according to ESPN. With those revenues gone, many schools have or are exploring eliminating low-revenuegenerating sports. For local communities, businesses are not seeing the influx of fans spending money to attend games, eat and drink at local venues, stay in hotel rooms for the weekend, or purchase their favorite team’s gear. Those losses create a domino effect of lower revenues, fewer jobs and reduced tax revenue. According to an analysis by Sports Value — a Brazil-based sports marketing, branding, sponsorships, activations, brand and sports properties valuation firm — the global sports market generates an estimated $756 billion annually, with $420 billion —
or nearly 56% — generated in the United States. When sports began shutting down in March to protect the health of participants and spectators, stadiums and arenas were left empty, impacting approximately 1.3 million sports jobs that were furloughed, reduced or erased. Set to be the biggest sporting event of 2020 — the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which was expected to draw 600,000 foreign visitors and their money to Japan — was rescheduled to July 2021. The one-year delay for everything from coaches’ salaries to venue maintenance is expected to cost between $2.7 billion to $6 billion worldwide. Domestically, the “Big 4” professional sports leagues — the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — combined are expected to lose more than $6.8 billion in ticket sales due to the virus. In March, the NBA suspended its season after a player tested positive for COVID-19. The league didn’t return until August, when 22 teams played in an “isolation bubble” at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The NBA 2020-2021 season tipped off on Dec. 22, about two months later than normal due to the delay of the ’19-’20 season. It will be interesting to see how holiday travel impacts COVID-19 numbers and affects the league, mainly the rejuvenated New Orleans Pelicans. MLB started, stopped and restarted its season, choosing to play home games without spectators and then using two cities as a bubble during the playoffs and a single site for the World Series. It’s likely the start of the 2021 season will be impacted with a delayed start and/or limited fan capacity. There will be debates about how the pandemic was handled, but thank goodness there appear to be vaccines on the way to stop the spread. The world is a little bit under the weather, but soon, hopefully, we will be back safely and can have a ball once again. n
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E Y
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. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.
AS THE CALENDAR CHANGES, SPORTS-RELATED
IN THE BIZ ENTREPRENEUR
Hey, It Could Happen Entrepreneurial predictions for 2021 BY KEITH TWITCHELL
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E Y
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 macro-business levels.
Other local entrepreneurs also respond Since making New Year’s predictions is to meeting needs in a COVID-19 world. second only in popularity to New Year’s reso- The new cocktail delivery service “Shaken lutions, here’s a look into the entrepreneurial Not Stirred” (a nod to the condition of city streets) is highly successful. A consortium crystal ball for 2021. After leaving office, former President of local restaurants throw their money into Donald Trump launches his own T V a pot to establish a similar service for food channel, Trump TV — “All Trump, All delivery, appropriately named “Gumbo on the Time.” With its star attraction now on Wheels.” Also new on the scene is a company called another network, Fox News sees its viewership plummet, and is forced to change “Hair There and Everywhere” that sends suitits format; trading on its name, it focuses ably masked and gloved barbers and stylists exclusively on news and commentary from on house calls. A popular new product is wearable innerthe animal kingdom. As the government breaks up monopo- tubes measuring 6 feet in diameter, to ensure lies like Facebook and Twitter, many new social distancing in public settings; the most social media sites debut. Each focuses on a in-demand model is designed to look like a particular political ideology, so that people king cake. Another hot seller is the “Sippy never have to encounter an opposing point Mask” with its built-in straw. Also in the of view. Among them are “Demo-graphics,” a mask category, a high-tech version uses video site for liberals; “Mr. and Ms. Right,” a smart phone-like dictation technology to dating site for conservatives; and ZZZ-Anon, flash the words spoken by the mask-wearer a conspiracy chat room whose basic premise on a miniature forehead display crawl. is that everyone is asleep, and all of this is Unfortunately, glitches in the technology lead to multiple misunderstandings and just a dream/nightmare. Libertarians attempt to start a platform even fights, and the product is relegated to for people who share their point of view, but use only by WWE. Several entrepreneurs seize opportuniare unable to get the necessary government ties created by the continuation of workpermits. Elon Musk tests positive for coronavirus from-home policies. T-shirts that look like 73 times and negative 72 times, meaning he suit fronts are a big seller. “Home cubicles” finally contracts COVID-19. In response, recreate that unique workplace environMusk develops his own vaccine. While the ment, including built-in speakers that play formula remains secret, primary ingredients distracting noises like co-worker chatter and phones with annoying ring tones going off appear to be lithium and Mars dust. Locally, after concluding his stellar career every three minutes. Most popular of all is with a Super Bowl championship, Drew a service that enables people to video themBrees dives deeply into entrepreneurism. selves staring at a monitor screen for hours, Among his new ventures are a wind farm then use portions of it to give the illusion of (Brees Energy), an air conditioning firm their participation in endless Zoom meet(Summer Brees), and — with demand still ings while they nap or accept deliveries from exceeding supply — a new line of toilet Shaken Not Stirred. How many of these prognostications will tissue (Gentle Brees). He also purchases and brings back to New Orleans the Zephyrs come true? That’s hard to predict, but given what happened last year, don’t bet against baseball team. With Carnival largely canceled, local any of them! n Mardi Gras mask makers generate new business by producing colorful virus protection masks. Costume makers hang in there by focusing on gloves and custom-designed hazmat suits. Float builders team up with local musicians to construct dozens of new traveling bandstands, even equipping them with electronic fast-pay technology so listeners can provide tips by simply tapping their smart phones on the sides of the floats. A NEW YEAR IS UPON US, THANK GOODNESS.
WHATâ€™S NEXT IN
TO ADVERTISE CAITLIN SISTRUNK
(504) 830-7252 Caitlin@BizNewOrleans.com
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Perspectives HOT TOPICS IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA INDUSTRIES
BANKING+FINANCE A look at how companies are using AI to enhance the customer experience
HEALTHCARE How has care changed during the pandemic and what adaptations are here to stay?
LAW Local firms share their pick for top employment law changes in 2021
GUEST Choosing to invest in line with
your values is more popular than ever, but there are challenges.
PERSPECTIVES BANKING + FINANCE
DAVID M. LUKE
SR. VICE PRESIDENT/ TREASURY MANAGEMENT & COMMERCIAL DEPOSIT MANAGER HOME BANK
COO AND CXO FIDELITY BANK
Using AI, we can provide our customers with realtime fraud protection. Algorithms in our security software recognize suspicious activity and notify card users of potential fraud. Best of all, this provides actionable alerts for our customers via text messages on mobile devices. Similarly, we use monitoring software to track potential fraud in real-time for wires and ACH payments. Looking ahead, we anticipate offering more AI enhancements at our ATMs and with online chat.
D. SHANE LOPER COO HANCOCK WHITNEY
How is your company using AI (artificial intelligence) to enhance the customer experience?
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
The bank’s leveraging of AI has advanced at least five years in the past nine months. Our AI tools are focused on creating a deeper understanding of our clients’ and prospects’ needs, which helps us determine the best product fit and know when a client may be becoming dissatisfied. AI also provides our bankers with relevant information that allows them to have meaningful conversations with clients and prospects. We are also developing AI that will help signal a client’s life events so that we can help them achieve their goals and dreams.
We have been using AI for decades to prevent fraudulent transactions from even posting to accounts. In the last few years, our use of AI has expanded to also include the curation of content that we provide to our commercial and small business clients via electronic communications. This isn’t just a simple, global response to overall click-through trends, it’s machine learning at the individual level that allows us to provide the most relevant information to our clients to help them stay current with what's most important to their business.
JASON BIZOU FINANCIAL ADVISOR WOODBURY FINANCIAL AI has gradually become instrumental to portfolio management, but there's a risk to relying too much on automation since markets are often inconsistent and impacted by something unprecedented almost every time they begin to move. That may trigger AI to shift to more conservative investments when the market drops. If that dip is followed by a big recovery, however, AI may respond slower, leaving the investor worse off than if they had simply stayed put. What we do know is that sound financial planning is the key to success over time.
PERSPECTIVES HE ALT HC ARE
at the Cardiovascular Institute of the South, “but we don’t stop the patients from coming to the clinic and checking in in person, if that’s what they’re more comfortable with.” Will online check-ins continue when the pandemic is gone? St. Tammany Parish Hospital COO Sharon Toups is betting on yes. “I think we’ll probably have smaller waiting rooms and, much like you check in for your flight at an airport, you’ll be able to check in before you come, fill out all your information, and then we can text you when the physician is ready or when we can bring you back to a room,” Toups said. Visitation is another issue that has been addressed at St. Tammany Parish Hospital, which currently permits one visitor per patient. “Our visitor policy has probably been revised four or five times throughout the COVID track,” said Toups. “We’re used to having pretty open visitation for patients, but we do want to keep our patients, and also the visitors, coming into the hospital as safe as possible.” SANITATION
Maintenance of a clean and safe environment is paramount in the medical field. In addition to hand sanitizer, social distancing and mask mandates, facilities are turning to technology to keep their spaces sanitary. “We are actually looking at a pretty significant expansion in our robotic disinfection fleet,” said Eli Smith, COO of West Jefferson Medical Center. “We’re investing roughly a half a million dollars in an effort to ensure that the environment is kept sterile, clean and safe for our patients, visitors and staff.” St. Tammany Parish Hospital is also utilizing UV technology to help sanitize its facilities. “Everything gets cleaned as you would normally clean it, then [we take that] extra step to really make sure that room is ready for the next patient,” Toups said.
Healthcare 2.0 Local providers share how care has changed during the pandemic and weigh in on what innovations are likely here to stay. BY JESSICA ROSGAARD
COVID-19 HAS CHALLENGED HEALTHCARE
providers on multiple fronts, including figuring out how to treat the virus, how to obtain personal protective equipment for staff, and how to safely treat non-COVID-19 positive patients during a pandemic. Many of those early adaptations are continuing to impact how healthcare providers do business, and how patients experience treatment.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
One of the biggest concerns withCOVID-19 is limiting exposure. One way to do this is by limiting interactions, starting with checking in for an appointment. “Patients can check in online in their vehicles so there aren’t multiple patients waiting in the waiting rooms,” said Dr. Ahmad Jabbar, an interventional cardiologist
We are actually looking at a pretty significant investment in our robotic disinfection fleet. Eli Smith, COO of West Jefferson Medical Center
NEW WAYS TO DELIVER CARE
Another innovation borne of necessity in the early days of the pandemic was the development of drive-through care. “West Jefferson was the first facility in the state to establish a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility,” said Smith. “The model we had put into place was the model that was subsequently adopted by Jefferson Parish. It’s a model we continue to maintain, really to both expand access to testing and to make sure that we’re avoiding any potential for co-mingling of asymptomatic patients with otherwise healthy patients.”
Michael Griffin is president and CEO of DePaul Community Health Centers of New Orleans. His facility set up a drive-through to distribute pharmacy medications and WIC vouchers. “We would bring [the vouchers] out to the car as the person came through — we didn’t want additional traffic to come in the building,” he said. St. Tammany Parish Hospital is planning to expand its use of drive-throughs for both testing and injections, like flu shots. “We’re going to design our new physician offices with easy access in and out in order for our staff to be able to go out and serve patients in that capacity,” she said.
We brought in a group of doctors from New York City via telemedicine... they had a lot of experience [with COVID-19] and brought expertise to our ICU and SHIFT TO TELEHEALTH COVID-19 also brought about a rapid expan- CCU that was needed at sion of telehealth services. West Jefferson Medical Center didn’t offer the time.
telehealth in 2019, but expects to have provided more than 30,000 telehealth visits from March through December of 2020. “Telehealth is going to remain a point of emphasis for us,” Smith said. “We will be making just north of $2 million in planned improvements and enhancements to our facility and that will include the acquisition of some technology to really limit [the necessity to have to come to] our campus. It will also expand our telemetry coverage and capabilities.” Greg Stock, CEO of Thibodaux Regional Health System, said telemedicine has helped his network of hospitals and urgent care centers expand treatment, and also reach out to other medical professionals outside of the region for help. “We brought in a group of doctors from New York City via telemedicine — New York was way ahead of us in terms of when COVID hit, so they had a lot of experience and brought expertise to our ICU and CCU (critical care unit) that was needed at the time,” he said. Dr. Patrick Waring, founder of the Pain Intervention Center in Metairie, sees telemedicine as a useful tool to not only bring the patient to the doctor, but the doctor to the patient. “If the physician has to be away, then we do telemedicine visits in reverse — patients can be at my office with my staff and I can interact with them,” Waring said. Dr. Stacy Greene of DePaul Community Health Centers believes telemedicine is here to stay. “It can be efficient for us and more convenient for our patients because every health matter doesn’t have to be solved through a face-toface visit,” he said. “If you can save a person time getting on public transportation or taking that commute to a health facility, it’s more convenient for the patient and better overall in helping to keep our facility safe.”n
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
Greg Stock, CEO of Thibodaux Regional Health System
PERSPECTIVES L AW
MAG BICKFORD AND CAMILLE BRYANT MEMBER AND ASSOCIATE MCGLINCHEY STAFFORD As many people might expect, the biggest, overarching employment law issue in 2021 will be the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in the workplace. With a vaccine on the horizon, employers are asking if they can be mandated and how well workers would comply. Employers will also continue to grapple with what to do if an employee refuses to come to work because of health concerns (yes, they have that right); preventing COVID-related discrimination and harassment claims; changes in policies and procedures regarding telecommuting, absences due to school closures, layoffs (and hopefully bringing people back to work); and other developments. In addition, President-Elect Biden’s choice for secretary of labor (not to mention the impacts of the current lame-duck presidency) will have ripple effects for employers nationwide. Finally, what will the decisions coming out of the Supreme Court look like with a conservative majority justice pool, and how will that impact employers?
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
What are the top employment law changes for 2021?
ERIN W. LATUSO
MARY MARGARET SPELL
PARTNER FORMAN WATKINS & KRUTZ LLP
PARTNER JONES WALKER LLP
With so much focus of lawmakers on the pandemic and pandemicrelated laws, new state employment-related laws and regulations are down drastically. in effort to stabilize the fast-emptying trust fund that pays unemployment benefits, the Legislature did amend the Louisiana Employment Security Law to provide a definition of the term “employee” and to exclude independent contactors from the existing definition of “employment.” These changes take effect on January 1, 2021.
Employee pay is expected to be an early focus of the incoming administration. Efforts to raise the federal minimum wage are likely. We may also see a higher salary threshold for employees exempt from overtime. [Action on] pay equity could mean additional legislation aimed at closing the gender- and race-based pay gaps or pay data collection as seen with EEO-1 Component 2. In addition to extending the COVID-19-related paid leave provisions, we should expect movement toward a more general paid leave law.
MEMBER STONE PIGMAN
FOUNDER, CEO TRANSCENDENT LAW GROUP
A Biden Department of Labor will likely seek to increase protections against misclassification of workers as independent contractors, particularly gig economy workers. Biden can also use federal agencies, such as OSHA, to more aggressively pursue workplace rights for employees, including through the imposition of emergency COVID-19 workplace safety rules. If Democrats win a majority in the Senate, the administration may also seek a federally imposed $15-per-hour minimum wage.
We can expect President Biden to reverse numerous policies instituted under the previous administration. Biden has signaled that he would make DACA permanent and make more high-skilled work visas available. He also will likely reverse the executive order on diversity and inclusion training. It is likely that the National Labor Relations Board and Department of Labor will become more progressive and pro-employee, and OSHA will begin stricter enforcement protocols. Biden will also likely extend the coronavirusrelated benefits.
When Money Meets Meaning Investing with your values is growing in popularity, but challenges remain. BY SUZANNE T MESTAYER
IT’S FINALLY OVER! IT’S AN UNDERSTATEMENT
to say that 2020 will go down as one of the most disruptive years in recent history. We have all been impacted by some combination of the pandemic, social unrest, business closures, personal losses, work-from-home strategies, hurricanes, competing narratives of the election season, and the stock market crash and dramatic rebound. Navigating through 2020’s challenges was incredibly difficult, but the isolation provided an opportunity to reflect on what we value. We may have thought and continue to think about how we spend our time, how we treat others, and how we spend or invest our money. For many investors, that has meant an increased desire to align their investments with their values, focusing on corporations that exhibit good stewardship over ESG factors. WHAT IS ESG?
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are criteria that can be used in evaluating investments. They dovetail with many of the very issues we confronted in 2020 and will face in the future. Some examples of ESG criteria to assess a company’s stewardship include: • Environmental — issues regarding energy efficiency, climate change and water scarcity; • Social — issues regarding employee relations, labor standards, community relations, customer and supplier relations, and gender and diversity; • Governance — issues regarding appropriate oversight, board composition, governance best practices and executive pay. The assessment of ESG factors does not replace the time-tested financial analysis of company valuations, but it does inform our thinking, especially relating to risk assessment, and can serve as an important part of the decision-making process.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
Suzanne T Mestayer is the managing principal at ThirtyNorth Investments, LLC. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. ThirtyNorth Investments, LLC, is registered as an investment advisor with the SEC and only transacts business in states where it is properly registered, or is excluded or exempted from registration requirements.
Some of these factors have previously been considered when assessing a company’s risks. Seen through the ESG lens, however, it is a more deliberative and broader evaluation of corporate activities. It is becoming a differentiator for investment selection. Those interested in ESG may want to ensure that these factors are considered in their investments, while others may be drawn to investing in a growing number of ESG-themed investments on specific topics of importance to them. WHAT IS ITS SIGNIFICANCE?
ESG was introduced with a 2005 report entitled, “Who Cares Wins: Connecting
Financial Markets to a Changing World.” The thesis was that companies that perform well in these three areas could better manage risk and opportunities, foster sustainability and improve social outcomes, and the report laid the groundwork for ESG development. In 2006, the United Nations launched Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), and currently more than 3,000 global financial institutions are signatories and committed to integrating ESG issues into their decision making. Overall global assets under management at funds leveraging ESG data have increased to more than $40 trillion in 2020, as reported by research firm Opimas.
ESG-themed strategies are also growing rapidly, with Morningstar reporting 400 new ESG strategies launched by funds in their investment universe in 2019, compared with 160 launched in 2016. Perhaps the most compelling change is the focus on ESG matters by corporations and the institutional investors who hold the vast majority of their stock. ESG has developed into a topic of prominence and influence among investors, asset managers, rating agencies, boards of directors and the broader financial community. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (S ASB) released standards for reporting and it is expected that the number of corporations voluntarily reporting will rise to 300 by next year. This is in addition to those reporting under the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards. WHAT ARE THE HURDLES?
Despite the traction being gained by attention to ESG, there remain numerous challenges for the investor community that need to be addressed, such as: • Disclosures are beginning to flow from corporations, yet there are no universally common standards, and reporting is voluntary. • Disclosure standards for investment products (funds, ETFs) do not yet exist, although it is encouraging that the CFA Institute is currently developing a voluntary, global industry standard. • Further requirements for disclosures will come at an administrative cost to corporations, which is yet to be quantified. • Conflicts with fiduciary responsibilities have been questioned when considering non-pecuniary factors, as illustrated by the Department of Labor ruling on Oct. 30, 2020, regarding investment selections for ERISA retirement plans. • Sufficient time has not passed to evaluate the long-term relative investment performance of including ESG factors in investment selection. Yes, there is still important work to be done, but the growing number of interested investors suggests that consideration of ESG factors in evaluating investments is poised to be a significant trend for years to come. It’s an opportunity for people to bring together money and meaning. After the year we just experienced, many people are probably thinking it’s about time. n
B Y K E I T H T W I T C H E L L , R I C H C O L L I N S A N D K I M S I N G L E TA R Y P O R T R A I T S B Y E D M U N D F O U N TA I N
EXECUTIVES YEAR OF THE
ADVERSITY IS NEVER WELCOME, but in the right hands, it can be trans-
formed into innovation. It can spur us to step out of our own little worlds and reach out in a desperate effort to create a little light in the darkness. It can break us down, only to build us back in a way we never could have anticipated. It can teach us how far we can be pushed, and show us what matters, and what really doesn’t. It is in times of adversity that leaders of quality are formed, and within these pages you’ll find some of the top in our region right now. They are the people who have long been leading the charge to eradicate poverty and provide more affordable housing and are now finding their mission more critical than ever. They are the people that stepped up to make sure all of our communities had the testing and medical care they needed this year, who led our healthcare heroes and who made sure our small businesses had the guidance they needed to get the resources to keep them afloat. They are the leaders who dared to think differently in industries that have been hit the hardest — to use this crisis as permission to change the way things have long been done, and yes, even to test the boundaries of how much fun can be had on a Zoom call. Please join us in celebrating Biz New Orleans’ 2020 Executives of the Year.
Bringing testing and care to wherever it’s needed “
established by and for the community,” said Dr. Shondra Williams, CEO of InclusivCare. “We live, eat, sleep and breathe the needs of the community. When residents are not thinking about health and safety, we’re doing it for them and finding the resources to support them.” Formerly known as Jefferson Community Healthcare Centers, InclusivCare is a network of four multiservice community clinics throughout Jefferson Parish. While they serve all residents — hence the name change in 2019 — there is particular emphasis on reaching residents who may otherwise not have ready access to health care. This mission became even more important during the pandemic, and the network’s post-Katrina roots were a vital asset. “Being an organization born out of disaster, we are pretty battle-tested, and we have been able to respond to the call of duty,” said Williams. “We were able to galvanize, mobilize and participate in over 40 events that included COVID-19 testing and follow-up services.” This included seeing patients in community centers, churches and other community gathering places, and partnering with government, the private sector and faith organizations. InclusivCare was the first to bring COVID-19 testing to St. Bernard Parish in May 2020. “Agility was very important, especially this year,” said Williams. “Being flexible, adaptable, able to pivot at a moment’s notice, required a lot of team building, but our staff was amazing in their stamina and resilience, keeping the community’s needs ahead of their own.” This challenge was made even greater by the loss of a team member to COVID-19 early in the year, but years of hard-earned resiliency carried the organization through. While serving so many community members was in itself highly rewarding, Williams was justifiably proud that InclusivCare was recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with its 2020 Community Support and Leadership Award. The organization was chosen out of some 700 nominees nationally. “We’re ecstatic about that recognition, especially in light of the hardships we faced this year,” said Williams, adding that the award is also a boost to Louisiana and particularly Jefferson Parish. Another year-end highlight for InclusivCare was breaking ground on a new 14,000-square-foot facility on Lapalco Boulevard that will offer community medical and dental services, along with an on-site pharmacy, while creating 40 new jobs. “2020 was the pinnacle of crisis management,” Williams said. “Now we have truly mastered it, we’ve navigated the constant change, and we are better prepared than ever to serve our community.” E ARE A COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION,
DR. SHONDRA WILLIAMS
“Being an organization born out of disaster, we are pretty battle-tested, and we have been able to respond to the call of duty.”
CHECKING IN 2019 EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
GAYLE BENSON OWNER, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS AND PELICANS
In addition to donating millions in funds and supplies to COVID-19 efforts, in 2020 Benson opened Dixie Brewery, renamed it Faubourg Brewing Co., opened a wine company, celebrated a $56 million reopening of the Benson Cancer Center and announced $50 million raised for a VC fund to benefit the Gulf South.
“You name a reform, and I can show you how the failure to include housing has undercut it.”
in New Orleans has hit critical mass, and Andreanecia Morris, CEO of HousingNOLA, is widely recognized as the point person when it comes to trying to solve it. The problem has been building for many years, but “COVID-19 really emphasized it. You can’t shelter at home if you don’t have a home,” Morris pointed out. Morris has been involved with this issue since her first job out of college, when she worked in the communications department at the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO). “I felt a real responsibility to know what I was talking about,” she recalled, so she constantly questioned other staff, managers and housing residents. “That’s when I learned how broken the system was. I couldn’t fathom how we had done this to our fellow citizens.” After Hurricane Katrina, she went to work for a nonprofit housing developer, but frustrated by what she felt was a lack of progress, she helped start HousingNOLA in 2014. The organization is dedicated to creating an overarching plan to address the affordable housing crisis. “Housing is the foundation for addressing issues like crime, healthcare and education,” she said. “You name a reform, and I can show you how the failure to include housing has undercut it.” HousingNOLA seeks to bring affordable housing to the forefront through continuing education efforts, advocacy and developing new policies. Several key policy proposals are now in the pilot project stage, especially in response to COVID-19. One example is a rental assistance program for newly unemployed workers, which HousingNOLA launched with significant national funder support as a potential model for nationwide replication. Even more innovative has been Morris’ work to place homeless families and current renters with Section 8 housing vouchers in short-term rental properties that are not being occupied because of the tourism slowdown. “We’ve found that with the right support, this concept is working,” she said, adding that, “Some of these STRs will probably go back to being regular rentals permanently. “We started saying ‘Put Housing First’ years ago, but COVID-19 shows we still have a long way to go,” said Morris. “Next year, we will be refocusing on the communications piece, because we still have to overcome ongoing resistance to affordable housing. We are also going to launch a citizen planning process for affordable housing. This is a citywide problem and we need residents, businesses and government to come together to solve it.” THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS
PRESIDENT AND CEO GULF COAST BANK & TRUST
Fighting for affordable housing at a time of critical need
CHAMPIONING SMALL BUSINESS AND THE NEW ORLEANS ECONOMY AS GUY WILLIAMS EXPLAINED IT, managing
There was a period of about three weeks where we worked 24 hours a day.
Paycheck Protection Loan applications for his customers was a high-stakes race to the finish line. “The SBA set it up in an awkward way, where it was first come, first served,” said Williams. “As soon as you loaded loans into the portal, the money was being whittled away by the treasury, so we had to [get the applications processed] quickly to make sure all of our customers got done. There was a period of about three weeks where we worked 24 hours a day — which is more than a little unusual in the banking business. Parkway Bakery, one of our customers, has to go in at 3 a.m. to prepare the roast beef for the poor-boys, but we never thought we’d be up working at that hour.” Ultimately, Gulf Coast completed 2,552 PPP loans totaling $276,439,000. The bank also approved $15,620,000 of the less-popular Federal Reserve Main Street loans. At the same time, the bank was strengthening online banking tools, improving health and safety protocols and counseling customers. “Everyone is dealing with uncertainty,” said Williams. “The New Orleans economy is really in a difficult situation because both the oil-based businesses and tourismbased businesses are hurting. As a banker, you need to be sympathetic to the problems,
provide good advice and help in ways you can so we can all get through this.” Williams, who co-founded Gulf Coast in 1990, is responsible for $2.2 billion in assets, 45 locations, 689 employees and more than 17,000 customers in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. In March, he became chairman of the board of Greater New Orleans Inc., where his colleagues say he’s done yeoman’s work during an unprecedented year. “Guy is such an effective leader because he is morally principled, intellectually dexterous, and has a passion for the people of Greater New Orleans,” said GNO, Inc. CEO Michael Hecht. Looking ahead, Williams said the two big challenges facing the New Orleans economy are reviving the tourism industry and replacing the economic activity lost by the waning oil and gas industry. To address both, he said, city leaders need to think big. “I challenged our board members and investors at GNO, Inc. to measure ourselves against the best,” he said. “For too many years we have been content in Louisiana to look over our shoulder, and as long as Mississippi was behind us, No. 49 was okay. That’s truly bizarre. We can do much better — and it’s really time for us to do it.” He also stressed the importance of supporting local businesses, especially now. “Don’t shop at Amazon,” he said. “Jeff Bezos makes more money than all of us in Louisiana put together. I’m not a Bernie Bro but I think enough is enough. Shop and eat local because the job you save may be your own.”
“These are the times United Way was built for.”
CHECKING IN 2018 EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
WARNER THOMAS CEO, OCHSNER HEALTH
Outside of leading the state’s largest not-for-profit health system through a pandemic, Thomas made multiple announcements last fall, including the merger of Ochsner Health with Lafayette General Hospital, the plan to build a “super clinic” in Metairie, and Ochsner’s commitment of $100 million over the next five years to building community health centers in underserved areas.
PRESIDENT AND CEO
UNITED WAY OF SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA
YOU HAVE TO CARVE OUT THE TIME TO BE CREATIVE AND DO CREATIVE THINGS.
Bringing people together to raise millions for those in need.
first volunteered with his local United Way branch in South Carolina, he had no idea he was embarking on a new career path. Then a bank officer, Williamson participated in United Way’s “Loaned Executive” program and was such a success that six month later, he was offered a position with the organization. After five years with United Way America, he was recruited to come to New Orleans as the chief operating officer for United Way of Southeast Louisiana. In 2013, he took over as president and CEO. Amid the myriad challenges of 2020, this experience has served him well. “These are the times United Way was built for,” Williamson said. “We are at our best when we are setting the collaborative table and bringing partners together.” Five years ago, United Way released its “Blueprint for Prosperity,” which Williamson described as a “bold mission to eradicate poverty in Southeast Louisiana.” The work was at a pivotal point going into 2020, and Williamson found the biggest challenge over the year was simply to stay the course and follow the plan. But following the original plan wasn’t enough. In order to meet new needs created by the pandemic, United Way created a pandemic response fund for Louisiana hospitality workers to “raise money to provide emergency grants to these workers as a bridge to when they could receive government aid.” The fund raised more than $2.4 million and distributed approximately 4,800 checks within just a few months. Williamson said he was particularly proud of the amount raised given that the entire nonprofit sector was competing in 2020 with political fundraising efforts. Always one to look on the bright side, Williamson noted that the pandemic also encouraged the organization to use technology to increase efficiency. “In a matter of weeks, our team was pivoting to use more digital tools,” he said. “This probably sped us up by five years.” He noted the steep learning curve that was a part of learning to manage donor relations via video technology but said the result has been a permanent operational change. “Completing this transition successfully means United Way will be a stabilizing force in our community for years to come,” he said. “We will be able to play a stronger, more strategic role in the COVID-19 recovery.” HEN MICHAEL WILLIAMSON
LALLY BRENNAN & TI ADELAIDE MARTIN CO-PROPRIETORS COMMANDER’S PALACE
Fighting for Survival with “The Zoom That Saved Wednesdays” Led by Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin, iconic New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace served as a shining example of the entrepreneurial spirit this year. “Our team’s approach was, ‘Let’s try anything,’” said Martin. While being true to their history as a premier dining establishment, Martin and her co-proprietor, Lally Brennan, launched several new ventures over the course of the year to keep the operation going. First was connecting with nationwide food delivery service Goldbelly.com in May
2020 to bring Commander’s cuisine to an audience across the country for the first time ever. There was a learning curve involved; their first offering was turtle soup and quail, sales of which tapered off after an initial burst. “That was maybe a little too adventurous,” recalled Brennan. “We had to figure out what the customer would enjoy.” The venture has nonetheless a success, tripling the restaurant’s sales. Brennan and Martin have also partnered with two local beverage companies — French Market Coffee, to create a custom coffee and chicory blend, and El Guapo Bitters, to craft an exclusive line of cocktail mixers. Each will be found on your local grocery store shelves soon. “We are still not making money in the restaurant,” Martin said, “so we need all of this just to survive.” The restaurant has also received global attention for its Wednesday night wine and cheese Zoom party. Since April 2020, Sommelier Dan Davis has led a variety show-style party on Zoom that has been regularly attended by over 1,000 New Orleanians. Attendees purchase tickets and then pick up the wine and cheese specified for the
evening at local stores before settling in (often in costume) to enjoy themed evenings that include performances from local artists and the opportunity to learn from Davis, along with wine and cheesemakers from around the globe. In October, the party moved nationwide as the restaurant began shipping wine, cheese and charcuterie packages to those eager to join in the fun. On top of all this, Commander's Palace has also launched a permanent “to-go” business called Le Petit Bleu. Working with their staff to develop these innovations has been a joy for Martin and Brennan, as well as a learning experience. “The pleasure the team has gotten out of their entrepreneurial accomplishments has been fun to watch,” Martin said. “It’s taught me to look into people and see their talents.” “You have to carve out the time to be creative and do creative things,” added Brennan. “That’s been a positive, that we had that time.” “We’re just a little microcosm of the city, creating new jobs with new businesses,” concluded Martin. “We hope to help fan the flames of entrepreneurism in New Orleans.”
F O U N D E R A N D C R E AT I V E D I R E C T O R LEBLANC+SMITH
“If New Orleans is going to thrive and endure, we need hospitality companies that are willing to grow inside and outside of the city.”
an inventive new business model for the hospitality industry. In an effort to streamline operations and promote equity, LeBlanc made all positions at his four restaurants and bars and one hotel full-time and salaried (starting at $30,000 per year) with insurance benefits. All employees, no matter their primary role, also took on more leadership responsibilities. LeBLANC+SMITH’s restaurants and bars also unveiled new systems and safety protocols designed to ease the workload of the now-leaner crews. The experiment is unfolding at the hospitality group’s French Quarter restaurants Sylvain and Longway Tavern, the Uptown restaurant Cavan, and Lower Garden District bar Barrel Proof, as well as at The Chloe, the company’s brand-new boutique hotel on St. Charles Avenue, which opened in October 2020, the same month Meauxbar — opened in 2003 and purchased by LeBLANC+SMITH since 2014 — closed in the French Quarter. Five months after the new system’s debut, LeBlanc said he’s learned a lot, made some changes and is pleased with the early results. “It’s going well,” he said. “Some people chose to go back to hourly pay so they could have flexibility, but the same principles apply: You pay people a little bit more of an hourly rate and the tips are shared equally. And we still treat everyone as a leader and engage them in all the meetings, so there’s still equity between what the front of the house makes and what the back of the house makes.” LeBlanc said the staff sizes at his restaurants have grown by more than 50% since the summer. Sylvain and Cavan have been profitable for the last two months and Barrel Proof is heading in the right direction. Longway, meanwhile, is “struggling and may have to wait until the [French] Quarter comes back a bit.” The big surprise, said LeBlanc, is that locals have really embraced The Chloe, which occupies a converted French Quarter mansion. The 14-room hotel spans 14,000 square feet and features ample outdoor dining space, along with a pool and gardens. It’s LeBlanc’s biggest project to date. The final price tag was in the $9 million range and was funded by a group of New Orleans investors whom LeBlanc said are pleased with the early response. “I think we’ve hit on something really special,” he said. “I think people really like the idea of these boutique hotels that can deeply embed themselves in historically and culturally significant neighborhoods and give people a sense of what it’s like to actually live there. The Chloe also gives residents a place they can use as their own lobby.” Coming off a big win — LeBlanc was named Restaurateur of the Year by the Louisiana Restaurant Association in 2019 — this year has proved to be a real test of the Loyola grad’s leadership skills. “You need to make tough decisions in difficult times while instilling confidence in people,” he said. “You have to believe in yourself and in your team. It’s easy to do that when things are going well, but it’s not always easy to do when things are going poorly. The pandemic won’t last forever. If New Orleans is going to thrive and endure, we need hospitality companies that are willing to grow inside and outside of the city.”
CEO, THIBODAUX REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER
ROBÉRT LEBLANC MADE NEWS in July when he announced
Innovating and growing in one of the pandemic’s hardest-hit sectors
LEADING A TOP-RANKED HOSPITAL TO ADAPT AND EXPAND DURING AN UNPRECEDENTED YEAR TO SAY THAT 2020 was a challenging year
A key word for us was adaptability, followed by innovation.
for most hospitals is putting it mildly. For Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, add in a few hurricanes and the slumping oil and gas industry. Regardless, CEO Greg Stock sees a lot of good things that came out of the year. “During critical times, you can go to `The sky is falling’ end of the spectrum,” he observed. “We tried to do the opposite and say, `We haven’t seen this before, what can we learn from it?’” Opened in 1929 as St. Joseph’s Hospital, a 26-bed operation, Thibodaux Regional now occupies a state-of-the-art, multifacility campus with 180 beds. Remarkably, its ongoing growth continued during this difficult year. “We entered the year moving along pretty well with our patient-centered wellness initiatives,” recalled Stock. When the demands of managing COVID-19 struck, among TRMC’s responses were building out a new, 30-bed critical care unit in just 45 days. It was a feat Stock called “unheard of in our industry.” This happened while TRMC was already building a new cancer institute, which
remains on schedule despite the challenges of obtaining equipment, supplies and a workforce in the middle of the pandemic. “A key word for us was adaptability,” said Stock, “followed by innovation. The ability to remain calm and cool under very stressful circumstances is a reflection of the culture of the organization.” This capacity was further challenged by the multiple hurricanes that hit Louisiana in 2020. The facility remained open during the storms, as it always does, and Stock noted that the experience of dealing with past hurricanes actually helped prepare his staff for managing the pandemic. “Everybody was challenged during the peak of the coronavirus,” he recalled. “Every day was a different day. But we have an organization that can adapt and bounce back quickly.” During COVID-19 the hospital also combined its ICU and step-down units into a single operation. This increased staff efficiency while providing patients with better continuity of care. Throughout the pandemic, TRMC has maintained its status as a five-star hospital. It is currently ranked in the top 5% nationally for patient safety by HealthGrades and is considered one of the top 50 cardiovascular hospitals in the country by IBM Watson Health. “We bring quality medical care closer to home for people in our region,” said Stock. “That’s our responsibility to the community.”
“We had hospitals everywhere except East Jefferson, so this positions us well across the entire greater New Orleans community.”
CHECKING IN 2018 EXECUTIVES OF THE YEAR
CATHY DEANO AND RENEE MALONEY OWNERS, PAINTING WITH A TWIST
Last November, the Northshorebased “paint and sip” national franchise announced the purchase of paint-your-ownpottery company Color Me Mine — which includes 140 units — and global ceramics supplier Chesapeake Ceramics through its parent company, Twist Brands LLC.
WE LEARNED AFTER KATRINA, AND ESPECIALLY NOW DURING COVID-19, THAT THE GREATER THE CHALLENGE, THE GREATER THE RESOLVE.
The acquisition of the year
HEY SAY that what doesn’t kill you makes
you stronger, and CEO Greg Feirn said LCMC Health is coming out of 2020 stronger than ever. A nonprofit network of hospitals and urgent care centers, LCMC has been serving the Greater New Orleans area since Feirn led its creation back in 2009. He has served as CEO since 2014. As of November 2020, LCMC had treated approximately 2,500 COVID-19 positive patients, hundreds of whom required intensive care. Despite a new spike in cases at year’s end, Feirn feels the system was well prepared. “We have a lot of improvements in our clinical protocols, especially for intensive care patients,” he reported. “We are better able to manage our PPE. We’ve learned how to share staff when needed and to balance our patient loads.” The biggest news of the year for LCMC was adding East Jefferson General Hospital to the network at the end of September. As a publicly owned asset, the acquisition required approval from Jefferson Parish residents and 95% voted to approve. “A lot of this was about community,” Feirn said. “We had hospitals everywhere except East Jefferson, so this positions us well across the entire greater New Orleans community. It also continues the growth of our academic partnerships with LSU and Tulane.” Several other new practices arose during the pandemic that Feirn said will continue long after it’s gone. “We saw 3,000 to 4,000 telehealth patients annually pre-COVID-19, and that number will be over 100,000 by the end of the year,” he said. “This has changed how we’ve looked at creating access for patients in general. Telehealth offers easier access for patients, saves the providers time, and helps keep people out of what might be a costly visit to the emergency room.” Feirn said he is particularly proud of the teamwork displayed by the system’s 12,500 staff members throughout the year. In gratitude, LCMC implemented “Operation Bon Appetit,” which gave each employee a $100 gift card redeemable at local restaurants. “Folks in greater New Orleans know what it’s like to come together as a team and work through problems,” he said. “Our experiences this year have created a culture that will continue beyond the pandemic.”
STEPHEN PERRY CEO NEW ORLEANS & COMPANY
Heading tourism in its most difficult days Since the pandemic put New Orleans’ sizzling hot visitor economy on ice, the city’s tourism professionals have
been supporting health and safety efforts while working to keep the New Orleans brand at the forefront of travelers' future plans. Nobody has been more involved in the process than Stephen Perry and his team at New Orleans & Company, the destination marketing agency that promotes the city to business and leisure travelers. “Our priority has always been twofold,” said Perry. “First, to keep our locals and visitors safe during the pandemic through sanitizing and safety programs at restaurants, hotels and the convention center. Second, we work daily across many platforms to bring the originality and authenticity of New Orleans culture to the world to create billions of dollars in future spending, tens of thousands of jobs and a huge part of city revenue and services.”
In his role as the city’s top salesperson, Perry talks to more Fortune 500 CEOs on a frequent basis than probably any other Louisiana executive. All those contacts should prove crucial as the city plans for a post-vaccine scenario. “Our sales staff is in constant communication with our clients, and our earned media through PR efforts is critical,” he said. “We have launched campaigns supporting our local restaurants and attractions and we ran a ‘road trip’ campaign in our regional drive [markets] to keep our brand top of mind.” The stakes are high. Since March, New Orleans has lost about $200 million each week in “visitor spend” across all platforms: airlines, transportation, hotels, retail, restaurants, nightclubs, bars, music venues and cultural attractions. “That’s an extraordinary amount of money to take out of a city this small,” said Perry, who has been lobbying for more federal aid to increase his marketing budget. Experts say it will take until 2024 for New Orleans to climb back to 2019 levels of tourism income. Regardless, Perry is hopeful about the future. “We learned after Katrina, and especially now during COVID-19, that the greater the challenge, the greater the resolve,” said Perry. “That resolve drives me to lead this incredible world class team of sales and marketing professionals whose work drives a $10 billion economy and 100,000 regional jobs and benefits people residing on every street in every neighborhood of our beloved New Orleans. New Orleans is so beloved as a brand. We are optimistic about the future and believe that we will emerge from a challenging year.”
CEO NEW ORLEANS BUSINESS ALLIANCE
DID YOU KNOW? In 2020, NOLABA took home a record-setting eight awards from the International Economic Development Council, including Best in Show.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
CEO OF THE YEAR SINCE TAKING THE HELM of New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) in June
2015, Quentin Messer has led the organization to not only support and bring new business to New Orleans, but ensure that any gains are shared and opportunities are available to all New Orleanians. A formidable challenge before this year, by COVID-19 has piled on its own challenges, but Messer and NOLABA took swift action rising to them from the very start. NOLABA was the first local entity to set up a direct relief effort with the launch of its Gig Economy Relief Fund on March 16, which started with a $100,000 contribution from NOLABA. In the first 24 hours of accepting applications, almost 1,000 people applied for assistance. By the fall, the organization had raised $1.5 million for gig workers, small business owners, opportunity youth and hospitality workers. In April, when it was clear small businesses would need help applying for federal funding, NOLABA was there to provide that too — while also offering up $150 to each business owner that received assistance and creating a bridge loan program to help small businesses as they awaited their money. Recognizing the devastation happening in hospitality, NOLABA paired with Get Shift Done in mid-May to help out-of-work hospitality workers earn some money by filling shifts at community food banks and hunger relief organizations. The organization was also charged with administering the city’s Outdoor Dining Grand Program, and launched a website, Outdoordiningnola.com, to help answer questions and facilitate applications for assistance. Oh, and they’ve also provided 52,000 masks to those in need. While operating with a staff reduced by 32% in 2020, the now 22-personstrong NOLABA has still continued with their regular work, which this year included securing $5 million from JP Morgan Chase to boost the growth of blue-green infrastructure in New Orleans, graduating the first InvestNOLA cohort – an executive education program NOLABA has created for highgrowth entrepreneurs of color with revenues over $1 million —and reaching out into neighborhood business communities to create programs and initiatives that support local business. For his work leading NOLABA to support the New Orleans economy in so many ways during an unprecedented year, we are proud to recognize Quentin Messer as Biz New Orleans Magazine's 2020 CEO of the Year.
On What He’s Most Proud Of I think, a lot of people would have been sidetracked, understandably, by all the uncertainty this year, but my colleagues have been able to say, "Okay. We get it. Yes, there is uncertainty, but we're willing to keep moving forward." I think that says a lot about them. I'm very proud to have the colleagues I have.
On Risk I BELIEVE IN PEOPLE taking risks, and rewarding people who take chances, even if, in hindsight, it may not have worked out. I think you have to reward and encourage initiative, or “playing with pace,” (I’m a big sports fan). You want to play with pace. It’s better to get to a decisive "no" than an indecisive "yes" because time is the only thing that you can't give back to someone.
On his leadership pet peeve I HAVE NO RESPECT for people who pass the blame. If you're a leader, take the blame. Even in an organization our size, it's impossible for me to know everything, but if something goes awry, it's on me. Because ultimately, it has to stop with me. I try to share all the credit but shoulder all the blame alone.
On his big pandemic leadership lesson BACK IN MARCH, April and May, when we were doing the Gig Economy Worker Relief Fund, that was a moment where we were threatened with severe staff burnout. We potentially could have lost some superstars because they had been running 80, 90 hours a week for two months. Fortunately, I have colleagues who said, "Hey, look. We've got to take everything off people's plates for a couple of weeks, get through this and not bring on anything else, and then give people a break. I don't care who calls, or what happens, Quentin, you'll just have to figure it out. But the rest of the team just can't do it." I think you have to do that. The other thing that we did to prevent burnout on the team was provide one mental health day a quarter. It's not something that can roll over. So, you have to take it.
On the importance of objectivity
My father taught me to be relentlessly objective. If you love something or someone, the best gift you can give them is a relentless objectivity. So, that's what I try to give to myself, our
team at the Business Alliance, the City of New Orleans, and hopefully the rest of the world.
On why he’s still unapologetically optimistic about New Orleans There's no other city that has endured as much as New Orleans has, arguably, in the U.S., and it's still here… New Orleans has survived Katrina. It survived the flood of 1927. It survived the epidemic of 1918. It has survived battles in multiple wars, and it's also survived its own missteps. But here it is. It's still here. The other piece that gives me optimism is people want to be in New Orleans. It is so much in a position of strength to be some place where people want to be. You don't have to pay people to come to New Orleans.
On what keeps him up at night Our challenge is proving to people that there are enough viable job and entrepreneurial opportunities in New Orleans, such that people can have a livelihood, and realize their professional and entrepreneurial dreams.
On New Orleans as an “underrated brain city” The fact that our institutions of higher education are here, and the fact that they were open, and they've been able to maintain being open safely, that infused millions and millions of dollars in the local economy at a moment where there was no other industry up and going. Those institutions aren't going anywhere. That gives me optimism, because that says that you always have a chance.
On the power of one simple thing New Orleans is a place that people are fiercely loyal, but we're very fiercely self-critical. Right? I get that. But I think you have to balance that with being grateful. When you're grateful, that's the key to unlocking more. Leaders who are grateful have colleagues — I would rather say colleagues than employees — who are willing to go the extra mile. I think when you try to be grateful in real time, then you unlock greater performance for yourself, for your colleagues, and for the clients and stakeholders that you serve.
Everyoneâ€™s story is different. The specific influences, motivations, and support networks a leader accesses on his or her way to the top not only mold a personâ€™s leadership style, they also tell the story of who that leader is. New Orleans is home to a diverse and active business community, and much of its energy comes from the top, the executives whose actions and decisions move companies forward despite some of the most challenging economic times in history. Biz New Orleans is diving into what drives those decisions and actions with this exclusive section, which asks local executives about how they arrived where they are today and what they believe drives company success.
What have been some of your biggest challenges and biggest successes?
Chris Ferris President and CEO Fidelity Bank & NOLA Lending Group
The year 2020 was the most challenging time of my career to this point. A global health and financial crisis in the same year is quite possibly the biggest challenge we have all faced. However, one of the biggest personal challenges I’ve faced was moving to New Orleans with a young family. At the time, I did not have a job and very few prospects. Even though I had a lot of financial service experience, extensive training, and a deep desire to help people, I encountered an unexpected challenge in convincing the local business community to give me a chance. I’m thankful and always will be to Fidelity Bank for hiring me. My greatest professional success came just three years later, when I was appointed President and CEO of Fidelity Bank, a community bank deeply rooted in the city that I wasn’t sure would take a chance on me. How do you maintain a balance between work and personal life?
It’s important to me to carve out time to practice gratitude each and every day. I’m most thankful for my wife Ann and my children Nick and Sadie. Spending some time reflecting on my family each day serves as a reminder of what’s most important. I practice planning my days and weeks to include quality time with those most important to me. What changes or innovations do you hope to see for your company or industry in the next five years?
Fidelity Bank & NOLA Lending Group 353 Carondelet Street New Orleans 1-800-220-2497 bankwithfidelity.com
I was fortunate as a young banker to be a part of a comprehensive management training program. The banking industry once had some of the best employee development programs of any industry, but, at most banks, career planning and development programs have been reduced or eliminated altogether because of expenses and difficulty measuring the return on investment. On top of that, graduates of these programs were often recruited by other banks in the market. Still, I believe the programs have merit. Team members want to feel valued and
learn new things. Because of that, in 2019, Fidelity Bank introduced an accelerated leadership program. We recently celebrated our first graduate, Kiva Reynolds. She is excited to start her new role as a Small Business Relationship Manager in 2021. In your experience, what are the keys to maintaining a healthy, productive company culture?
First, you have to make it an ongoing priority. Culture is not a “set it and forget it” tenant. You must work on it constantly. Second, a company culture must be defined and have a personality that is specific with an effectiveness that can be measured. Third, leaders must be visible—they have to walk the walk and talk the talk. Fourth, it is important to reward those who exhibit the best of your culture. At Fidelity Bank, we reward an annual Chairman’s Core Value Award. And finally, feedback is necessary from your teams to ensure they understand the culture and that it remains healthy and relevant. Who have been some of the greatest influences on your career or leadership style?
I’m very lucky—I’ve worked directly and indirectly for some exceptional leaders. Two former bankers come to mind, and while their styles were different, they each understood the significance of leadership and communication. They taught me the importance of being clear, intentional, and consistent with my message. They both agreed that if the top of the house doesn’t have strong leadership, the chance for long-term, sustainable success is not likely. That’s part of why, at Fidelity, we focus on building leaders from within.
Fun Fact My favorite productivity tool/ app is One Note. I receive so much information daily that it’s hard to retain it and often fully understand it’s applicable use. I’ve found One Note to be a great solution for organizing and finding this info. It allows me to keep excellent records of my day-today, provides exceptional recall, allows access on all my devices, and is extremely helpful when I’m ready to apply what I’ve written or learned.
THE FASTEST GROWING CHAPTER IN THE GLOBAL EO NETWORK IN 2019 EO Louisiana is a chapter in the Global Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
which is a peer-to-peer network of more than 14,000+ influential business owners with 195 chapters in 61 countries. Founded in 1987, EO is the catalyst that enables leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow, leading to greater success in business and beyond.
To engage leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow.
To build the world’s most influential community of entrepreneurs.
Trust and Respect Thirst for Learning
Boldly Go! Make a Mark
To learn more about EO Louisiana visit us at EOLouisiana.org
STRATEGIC ALLIANCE PARTNERS WHO SUPPORT EO MEMBERS
From The Lens SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA BUSINESS IN FULL COLOR
WORKSPACES Seven Three Distilling Co. is NOLA proud through and through
WHY DIDNâ€™T I THINK OF THAT? New Orleans welcomes
the region's first axe throwing venue
ON THE JOB GoodWood Nola debuts new line of
FROM THE LENS GRE AT WORKSPACES
New Orleans Spirit Seven Three Distilling Co. takes its name and inspiration from the city’s 73 neighborhoods, and works to celebrate and support each one. BY MELANIE WARNER SPENCER PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY
S E V E N T H R E E D I ST I L L I N G C O .’ S S P I R I T S
bear names like St. Roch, Irish Channel and Gentilly, and sport eye-catching labels evoking Prohibition-era New Orleans or an old-timey apothecary bottle — or both. The distillery, located in the Tulane Gravier neighborhood, capitalizes on local history with maps and vintage imagery dominating the design and décor. The approximately 13,780-square-foot warehouse includes a tasting room, gift shop and production facility. Owners Sal and Eileen Bivalacqua worked with Albert Architecture and Logan Killen Interiors to achieve their vision for the space. General Manager Tristan Johnson said the team understands that while the operation creates, grows and expands, relying on New Orleans for inspiration brings with it a responsibility to the city and its inhabitants. “We are named after the neighborhoods of New Orleans,” said Johnson. “We’d be hypocrites if we didn’t give back.” In the past, the company has opened the space to community events and donated products to organizations to support their fundraising efforts. More recently, however, it meant joining other distilleries and breweries around the country in getting into the hand sanitizer game. “We were able to pivot into that, produce a lot of [hand sanitizer] quickly and give a lot to the community,” said Johnson. “We currently give it to any teacher that wants to come in. We aim to take on every donation that we can. It’s so important.” While production of hand sanitizer added another avenue of revenue and philanthropy, it didn’t deter the company from its primary goals.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
If you want to send a spirit to a friend or family member that can’t get here right now because of the pandemic, then we’ve got a spirit for you…and hand sanitizer. Tristan Johnson, General Manager of Seven Three Distilling Co.
The approximately 13,780-squarefoot warehouse in the Tulane Gravier neighborhood includes a tasting room, gift shop and production facility. Owners Sal and Eileen Bivalacqua worked with Albert Architecture and Logan Killen Interiors to achieve their vision for the space.
AT A GLANCE BUSINESS NAME
Seven Three Distilling Co. LOCATION
301 N. Claiborne Ave. DATE OF OPENING
February 2017 SQUARE FOOTAGE
Albert Architecture INTERIOR DESIGNER/FIRM
Logan Killen Interiors FURNISHINGS AND ART
Art – Map graphics by Tilt Design Firm out of BR (also designed the distillery’s labels and website graphics; Photos – Sourced from State Museum of Louisiana (Storyville photos and other bar-related imagery); Various custom pieces made by Logan Killen. NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES
17 PERSON IN CHARGE
Owners, Sal and Eileen Bivalacqua
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
The distillery was designed with the public in mind and some of its most distinct design elements were created not only to share the “how to” of distilling, but also to showcase the distinct lay of the land in the Crescent City along with its storied history.
“At the core, we are here to produce spirits and to put them into distribution, and that includes the greater New Orleans area, Louisiana, and, of course, our goal is to expand," said Johnson. “We want to offer a little bit of something for everyone, whatever your home bar might need. If you want to send a spirit to a friend or family member that can’t get here right now because of the pandemic, then we’ve got a spirit for you… and hand sanitizer.” Tours and tastings, albeit on a smaller and much more cautionary scale, resumed in November when pandemic restrictions were slightly rolled back. The distillery was designed with the public in mind and some of its most distinct design elements were created not only to share the “how to” of distilling, but also to showcase the distinct lay of the land in the Crescent City along with its storied history.
“It’s hard to talk about a distillery and not talk about the still,” said Johnson. “We have a very unique still and it does create that Willy Wonka effect. When you walk in from the tasting room you are right in front of that still. You are seeing behind the curtain. We have a very impactful copper bar in our tasting room. It’s big. It has impact, and it works so well for larger events. It just leaves an impression. Opposite that bar is a full map of New Orleans, [which makes it] so easy for the tourist traffic coming in, [because] it’s of course a city that it’s difficult to wrap your head around if you’ve never been here. When you see the map, it’s easy to see where the names on the bottles come from, Gentilly, Irish Channel [and] the whole concept of Seven Three.” Johnson said he and his counterpart, Head Distiller Erik Morningstar, collaborate to create a positive and fun work atmosphere that promotes creativity and collaboration
and relies on the various personalities and skillsets of each staff member. In 2021, the company’s goals are to continue to slowly increase distribution into markets outside of New Orleans and expand their online sales presence. Despite this eye on outside markets, Seven Three remains rooted in its sense of place. “Seven Three distilling has built its name, its identity, around the 73 neighborhoods of New Orleans,” said Johnson. “We are here for the New Orleans community. We want to be the local spirit of New Orleans.” n
Seven Three Distilling Co.’s branding is inspired by New Orleans’ 73 neighborhoods.
FROM THE LENS WHY DIDN’ T I THINK OF THAT ?
Hoping for a Bullseye Feel like throwing something? How about an axe? Stumpy’s Hatchet House brings a new form of entertainment to the CBD. BY ASHLEY MCLELLAN PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
HATCHET OR AXE THROWING IS ON COURSE
to become one of the biggest, fastestgrowing new trends in the U.S., according to a December 2019 report from CBS News. The pastime, which originally started in Canada, has found quick success in the United States, with young adults using venues to celebrate, compete and create bonding experiences. According to the report, “Consumers spent more than $6 million on axe throwing experiences through Square sellers in 2019 — a 317% increase in sales compared to 2018.” New Orleanian Kevin Cunningham, along with wife, Helena, son Kevin, Jr., and daughter Sydne, are the family behind Stumpy's Hatchet House's first Louisiana location, which opened on Nov. 6, in the heart of the CBD at 1200 Poydras St. The two-story location features 10 throwing pits and a private party room. The Cunninghams are betting that the concept will be a natural fit for fun-loving, thrill-seeking New Orleanians. “While working in the Philadelphia area, our son, Kevin Jr., had the opportunity to visit a hatchet throwing venue. He had a great time, it was packed, and he thought this activity would be a natural fit for New Orleans,” said Kevin Cunningham Sr. “That same weekend, our daughter, Sydne, sent us a video of a group of people throwing hatchets and indicated it was something we Because of the all should get together and do.” nature of the At that point, Kevin and hatchet-throwing pits (each pit is more Helena decided to do some than 6 feet wide), research. Stumpy’s provides The family settled on frana safe-distanced chising with Stumpy’s Hatchet environment for those looking for an House, a nationwide franchise activity for COVID-19 headquartered in New Jersey pods where everyone that currently includes 27 locais over the age of 18. Coaches are on tions, with 11 more listed as stand-by to offer “coming soon.” Franchises are newcomers tips and heavily concentrated on the East tricks. Coast, but spread into Florida, Texas, and now Louisiana. The company was founded in 2016 by two couples who got the idea after an impromptu game of axe throwing during a backyard barbecue. Stumpy’s marketing says it focuses on creating a casual, fun environment for anyone, regardless of experience level with the sport. “Stumpy’s Hatchet House is a family affair; this is very important to us,” Cunningham said. “The vibe…is more of a hatchet-
throwing lounge, where people can come to a relaxed and comfortable pit area, kick back and have a great time.” While Stumpy ’s does not currently provide food or alcohol, plans are in the works. BYOB and take-out or delivery from nearby restaurants and pop-ups is encouraged. “We are in the process of applying for our alcohol permit, and once received will sell beer, wine, hard ciders, seltzers,” Cunningham said. “We are considering adding additional food items to our menu; however, as of now, we only serve nachos, hot dogs, popcorn, chips and candy.” Anyone 18 and older is welcome, and instructors are on hand to provide the basics needed to get started. Because of the nature of the hatchet-throwing pits (each pit is more than 6 feet wide), Stumpy’s offers a safedistanced environment for those looking for an activity for their COVID-19 pods. Groups of one to four people can rent a pit for $25 per person, per hour. Groups of five or more are strongly recommended to reserve a two-hour time slot at $40 per person. Discounts are available for active duty military, first responders, teachers and healthcare workers. Reservations can be made through the company’s website (Stumpyshh.com), but walk-ins are also welcome. Launching Stumpy’s has been the first leap into entrepreneurism for this family, each of whom has an educational background in law. Cunningham Sr. is a partner in governmental relations firm Southern Strategy Group-LA; Helena is the CEO of National Housing Consultant Services, LLC; Kevin Jr. is an associate with the Philadelphia-based law firm of Keller Topaz; and Sydne is a 2020 graduate of Tulane Law School and an associate with the firm Roedel, Parsons, Koch, Blache, Balhoff and McCollister. Cunningham Sr. said the experience of starting a family business has so far been overwhelmingly positive. “Starting any new business has its challenges; starting it with family adds another layer of complexity,” he said. “With four strong-willed and creative individuals adept at formulating and making arguments to support their position, there were certainly disagreements. However, that process has allowed us to create a unique entertainment venue that we are all proud of as it encompasses all of our input and ideas.”
DID YOU KNOW?
AXE THROWING HAS QUICKLY GONE GLOBAL Created in 2017 to bring Canada’s axe-throwing clubs together and legitimize the sport, the World Axe Throwing League (WATL) now includes 334 affiliates spreading in more than 22 countries. The league hosts multiple tournaments, including the World Axe Throwing Championship, the latest of which took place in Atlanta from Dec. 4-6, and was televised on ESPN.
BENEFITS OF HATCHET THROWING Burns calories (up to 400 an hour) Promotes camaraderie across ages and genders Improves coordination SOURCE: STUMPY’S HATCHET HOUSE
The Cunningham family is betting that New Orleanians will embrace the chance to hang out in a new way. “This city embodies the idea of ‘When is the last time you have done something for the first time?’" said Cunningham Sr. " It’s always fun to see our customers' reaction to our space. Our favorite part is seeing someone hit their first bullseye. Their excitement is contagious and gets everyone pumped up.” n
Kevin and Helena Cunningham — along with son Kevin, Jr., and daughter Sydne — opened Stumpy’s Hatchet House Nov. 6.
PUBLISHERâ€™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 Generalâ€™s Office at 1-800-273-5718.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
FROM THE LENS ON THE JOB
Good Things in Smaller Packages Celebrating its sixth year in business this month, GoodWood Nola’s custom creations can be found throughout the region — especially at bars and restaurants including District Donuts, Emeril’s and Longway Tavern. And now, anyone can bring a little GoodWood home. PHOTO BY RANDY P. SCHMIDT
WO R K I N G F R O M A 1 6 , 0 0 0 - S Q UA R E - F O O T ST U D I O I N
Mid-City, GoodWood Nola’s staff of 14 adjusted to a lack of restaurant and bar work this year by launching a small goods line in December. A certified sustainable builder, GoodWood’s responsibly sourced wood can now be found in an array of items, including handmade chess and checker boards, phone and tablet stands, wine racks, spice racks and wall sconces. Especially popular items include the company’s serving trays — crafted with solid brass handles — and votive centerpieces. GoodWoodNola.com. n