Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
On Morrison Road in New Orleans East, a mass checkout is underway.
"Everybody was passing by, 'When are you opening up? When are you opening up? We need it. We need it," said Mohamad Esmail, owner of the USA Neighborhood Market.
On Saturday, the market became the first new food market to open in New Orleans East, since Hurricane Katrina hit more than six years ago. The opening is being hailed as a stepping stone in the continuing recovery of that area.
"It took like a year to fix it up. Nothing was here; only four walls," Esmail said. "So, everything was new electric, new everything."
The store includes a pharmacy, H&W Drug Store, which had been located in the Lower Ninth Ward since 1963. Hurricane Katrina destroyed it, but now it's finally reopened-- this time, in New Orleans East.
"We're here to serve this community, which was deeply underserved," said H&W Drug Store owner Ruston Henry. "People were just crying for it."
The store itself is located in an area where officials said more business investment is needed, to serve the more than 70,000 people who live in the New Orleans East.
"It sends a tremendous message to other business owners throughout the entire metropolitan area, that New Orleans East is viable, the people here deserve the services," said State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans East.
Beyond the business message, though, leaders believe the addition of the supermarket will help improve access to fresh food. That has been an ongoing issue in several areas around New Orleans.
"If you look at the terminology for it, you would consider New Orleans East a "Food Desert," in terms of access to buy quality food," said Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana.
It's a food desert where new seeds have been planted, after years in the making.