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    Rouses Rebounding After Hard Hit from Gustav

    Two-thirds of the Louisiana-based chain's stores have reopened.

    "We're putting everything back together slowly but surely," Donald Rouse, managing partner of Thibodeaux, La.-based Rouses, told Progressive Grocer yesterday as his company offered an update on its status in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. The local chain reported that 21 of its stores were open for business on Thursday, including two in New Orleans. The open stores are doing "plenty of business," Rouse added, as residents who had evacuated continue to return to the area.

    The storm hit the 34-unit grocer hard. "Gustav was worse than we expected," Rouse said. "There were more winds than with Hurricane Katrina." He said his company still has "a long way to go" before its business is fully recovered. "We lost all perishables in a number of stores. The roofs were blown off four stores and all product has to be replaced in those stores."

    In addition, much of Rouses' trade area is without power. "Southeast Louisiana is like an island on its own right now, with no power," Rouse said.

    To keep some stores open, the chain is using generators that burn diesel, costing the grocer $50,000 per day, Rouse noted.

    What's more, the company was in the midst of converting two recently purchased stores to its own format when Gustav struck, contributing to the chaos Rouses is dealing with in the storm's aftermath.

    On Thursday, Rouses' Web site included a "Hurricane Gustav Update" for its over 4,500 employees. It asked that they report to work as soon as possible, and dispensed information regarding closed stores and paychecks.

    A message to customers on the site lists reopened stores.

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