Fitness Expo checks in post-Katrina: Long road to recovery ahead

Just over a month after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, Rodney Rice of Fitness Expo, based in the immediate New Orleans area, reports in to SNEWS® to say that although he and his staff are OK, things aren't that rosy and recovery will take awhile.
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Just over a month after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, another fitness specialty retailer reports in to SNEWS® to say that although he and his staff are OK, things aren't that rosy and recovery will take awhile.

Rodney Rice Jr. of Fitness Expo, based in Metairie, La., just off the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, issued his thanks to the other retailers who have offered employment, if needed, to any employees, as well as thanks for the thoughts and well wishes he's received. He also told SNEWS® he'd like us to tell our readers about the situation because "I know people are always interested in the real facts other than what the media tells. Usually the media exaggerates, not so" in my report.

Here is what Rice had to say in his own words, as well as three pictures, below, of his headquarters and showroom in Metairie:Â

"Katrina damage reaches deeper than you can imagine. Unlike most storms that show images of storm damage, house trailers gone and some houses destroyed, Katrina has tested the will of the citizens and government. We have all seen the images of surface damage and the poor in suffering, but to see successful business people and local government perplexed is not a common sight in America. When you go through an event like this you become thankful for everything you have done right in regards to planning in your personal and business life.

"Our main showroom in Metairie/New Orleans was hit hard and is under repairs at this time. This building houses a 10,000-square-foot display area and approximately 8,000 square feet of office for accounting, retail sales, commercial sales and marketing. Our building should re-open soon in an ugly, but functional, form. The insurance claim just to the building is about $600,000. The showroom equipment claim will be about $300,000. Now I know why we have insurance.

"Our distribution center and warehouse are located in the vicinity of the New Orleans Airport. We just purchased this building seven months ago to improve our warehousing and service/delivery department. We keep the bulk of our inventory here. This facility had minor damage that will not exceed $100,000. Most of the other locations had very minor damage.

"We have not had any layoffs. We expect the New Orleans area to recover very slowly, so we will utilize our people with the other stores or any other logical functions in the interim.

"I really appreciate the offers early on from other dealers -- Superior Fitness, Hest and others -- to assist in employing some of our folks, if needed. Fortunately we will not need that help, but we really do appreciate the offers. 

"We will be analyzing the situation in New Orleans as time goes by to determine our best growth plans. I know that the fun will come back to this city, and I look forward to those future days."

Rice can be reached at rodneyricejr@fitnessexpostores.com.

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