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Anthony J. Rouse, founder of Rouses Markets and a pioneer of the modern supermarket, died March 5 at the age of 79.
Born in Marrero, La., in 1929, Rouse moved with his family to Thibodaux, La. where his father, Joseph P. Rouse, formed City Produce Co., a wholesale business that shipped locally grown vegetables throughout the country. As a teenager, Rouse began working in his father's business, but in 1960 he left the company to open a 7,000-square-foot grocery store in Houma, La. with his cousin Ciro DiMarco. It was a two-man operation, in which Rouse and DiMarco did everything from stocking the shelves to bagging the groceries.
When DiMarco retired in 1975, Rouse's son Donald became manager of the store, which was renamed Rouses. Soon after, the family opened the second Rouses Market in Thibodaux, where the company is based. The business continued to expand, and over the years, Rouse introduced more and larger stores in south Louisiana, including a superstore and a prototype, upscale epicurean-style market. In 2007, two years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the New Orleans area, Rouses acquired A&Ps Southern Division, giving the company its first stores in New Orleans itself.
Rouse was responsible for launching numerous new products and features unique to the Louisiana marketplace, including gourmet fare, prepared meals based on Rouse family recipes, and in-store smokehouses and sausage kitchens. He also put together the state’s largest supermarket selections of fine wines and natural and organic products. For his efforts, Rouse and his company received numerous honors, including having locations named Progressive Grocer's Store of the Month in 1984 and 2006. Rouses was also selected as the "Best Grocery Store in New Orleans" just one year after assuming ownership of A&P's Southern Division.
Additionally, as a longtime supporter and booster of Louisiana's farmers and fishermen before it became trendy to do so, Rouse made it a point always to carry fresh local seafood and produce in his stores.
Today there are 35 Rouses locations throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, including five Epicurean-style markets. Rouses is now the largest independent grocer in Louisiana, with more than 4,700 associates.
Rouse's survivors include his wife, Joyce Guillory Rouse; his sister, Anna Mae Ciaccio; sons Anthony Jr., Wayne, Donald and Tommy Rouse; daughters Cindy Acosta and Jeaneen Rouse, 17 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.