NEW ORLEANS, LA - (WVUE) The Lower Ninth Ward's first basic grocery store since Hurricane Katrina is scheduled to open Friday.
In September, U.S. Army Veteran and lifelong Lower Ninth Ward resident Burnell Cotlon showed Fox 8 the building he bought with his life savings and renovated on the corner of Caffin Avenue and Galvez Street.
Now, one section of his project called Galvez Goodies will open on Friday.
"The whole entire community of the Ninth Ward needs this," said Cotlon.
After building the store for three and a half years, Burnell Cotlon and his wife Keasha plan to throw the window open Friday.
They'll sell basic groceries and treats to lower ninth ward residents, many who currently have to travel to the nearest Walmart, in Chalmette, for food.
"Quite a few people don't have transportation, and having to catch three buses to go and get a loaf of bread, that's unacceptable," said Cotlon.
"I'm just so grateful and happy that Burnell and his wife would take on such a challenge in a neighborhood that is so challenged," said Warrenetta Banks of The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development.
The Cotlon's bought the burnt and decrepit property when they returned after Katrina.
Burnell said he worked odd jobs around the community, such as helping to fix roofs and pipes, and put the money he made into purchases for the store.
He said it took him two plumbing jobs to purchase the four-compartment sink he needed before he could get permits from the city, for example.
The Cotlon's expect the snoball machine to grab the kids' attention, too. They expect many kids to stop by Galvez Goodies as they walk by on their way to or from school.
The store sits down the street from Martin Luther King Elementary school and near the site of a future high school.
It's a spot for kids to grab a snoball and a cold drink when picking up milk, bread and even a hot meal to bring home.
It's also a dream the Cotlon's were willing to risk everything for to make come true.
"I put in all of my own money. We utilized our entire live savings," said Cotlon.
However, Burnell and Keasha aren't finished yet. They said the sales from Galvez Goodies will be invested in their ultimate goal: a complete walk-in grocery store.
"I'm excited. I can't wait for the first customer to finally come at the door on Friday. Three and a half years of our lives, and it's finally about to pay off," said Cotlon.
The grand opening is scheduled for Friday, April 11 at 10:00am.