As told to Leslie Taylor
Drew Ramsey was a police officer before becoming the third generation of his family to run Hubig's Pies, a bakery founded in 1922 and located just east of the French Quarter. Ramsey stayed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina to work with emergency first responders. In January, the bakery was able to resume supplying local grocery and convenience stores with its signature glazed turnover.
The only thing that didn't happen to us is that we didn't get flooded. Everything else happened to us. We avoided flooding because we're located in the Old City on the higher ground in what's called the "Sliver by the River."
We had gaping holes in our roof. A wall on our building shifted and opened up our premises to elements. All of our off-premises storage for perishables and dry goods got whacked very hard. A warehouse where we stored lots of cardboard boxes and packing materials was destroyed. Because our policy before Katrina was to allow employees with seniority to take delivery vehicles home, our vans were in various locations during the storm and we lost more than half our fleet of vans in one fell swoop. Worst of all, our employees were scattered to the four corners.
We had everything insured -- structures, property, people, profit. But our coverage did not kick in as it should have. After the storm, we paid our employees from our rainy-day fund. We have employees that have worked with us since I was a child. We have employees who met here and married, parents and children who work here together. When our resources ran out, we were lucky to have the kind of relationship with our employees that we could say to them, "Come back and we'll pay you when we can."
I had to call the car dealership that we work with and say, "You know that truck I still owe you for? Well, it's wrecked, and not only do I need to replace it, but I also need another to replace vehicles lost in the storm." That was a fun phone call.
But because I am the third generation of my family to be part of the business, and my grandfather and father had a history with the dealership, they sent me two more vehicles right away. Without those connections, I don't know how I would have been able to rebuild. I know that I am lucky. I'm blessed.
We reopened the second week of January. Before Katrina, we had 60 employees. Now we operate with a skeleton crew of around 30. Before the storm, we had 15 routes and sold lots of different products. Now we have many fewer routes and sell only the individual-sized glazed snack pie that is our trademark.
The power grid we're on is still very fragile. We lose power all the time. I am reluctant to order perishable ingredients in the quantities I'd like to order.
We've changed our routes to go where the people are. Entire routes, entire swaths of geography, are just gone. In certain regions, the store that used to sell our pies might be upside down in the middle of the road. Yet, lots of people have migrated to the area between New Orleans and Baton Rouge so we've been able to sell more pies there. We also now sell T-shirts and pies at our website, www.hubigspies.com.
We did have to juggle, adapt, and adjust to overcome, but our business now is incredibly robust relative to the amount of routes we are able to service.