New Orleans-based Massey's picking up the pieces following Katrina

Mike Massey, owner of Massey's Professional Outfitters, lives 30 miles north of New Orleans. He feels fortunate, even as workers are bulldozing the street knocking down trees, telephone poles – the entire utility infrastructure – in what once was an idyllic wildlife preserve. He tells us that his neighborhood received the least impact of those around him. Considering that in the one-mile square area there are over 500 trees down and 80 percent of the homes have trees through the roofs, that is a sobering thought.
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Mike Massey, owner of Massey's Professional Outfitters, lives 30 miles north of New Orleans. He feels fortunate, even as workers are bulldozing the street knocking down trees, telephone poles – the entire utility infrastructure – in what once was an idyllic wildlife preserve. He tells us that his neighborhood received the least impact of those around him. Considering that in the one-mile square area there are over 500 trees down and 80 percent of the homes have trees through the roofs, that is a sobering thought.

Massey's two stores in Metairie – located in the same location for 30 years – and Covington are damaged. Initial reports indicate that the flat roof of the company headquarters in Metairie is covered with water, and that there are two roof collapses and 6-inches of floodwater inside.

As he prepares to leave St. Louis for home tomorrow (Thursday, September 7, 2005) Massey tells us he hopes to have the Covington store re-opened by October, and the Metairie store and headquarters open by mid-November.

He's relying on the business hopefully generated by the Baton Rouge store to carry the needs of his company to generate sufficient cash to keep all of his employees on the payroll.

Massey's is a story of ongoing courage and perseverance that is best told in his words, printed below as he sent to us via emails over the last few days:

Saturday, September 3, 2005
It's hard to fathom the emotions attached to not having any information on family and staff.

We sat for days like zombies just trying to discern a tidbit of information on the status of the people and places that make up our lives. Everyone has been separated by seemingly insurmountable distances.We can text message each other, but direct communication is nearly impossible -- especially with the staff that stayed behind. Their cell phones stopped working days ago text messaging contact with them is now gone due to dead batteries.Luckily, I have about 15 family members with me in St. Louis, and patchy contact with my mother and sister in Tupelo. The rest of my staff is spread from Houston to Indiana to Dallas and Wyoming.I did get some emotional relief when a friend called to tell me that our main store and office looked fine.... but the good cheer quickly ended when I found out from my insurer that if I was lucky enough to have sustained no damage, I would have no claim for business interruption and thus no way to pay my ongoing expenses, like employee salaries. (ed note: a later email from Mike indicates that the store was, and ironically he's thankful for that, damaged by flood, meaning funds should be available, though how much is anyone's guess.)Still, I think if there is ever a time that people need to get paid, it's now. One staff member who has worked for me for 20 years stayed home for lack of a place to evacuate. She hasn't had power, sewer, water, phone, and more now for five days. Still, she makes daily trips to our Covington store to make sure it's secure and pick up another jug of water. But then it's back to a 95 degree home to sit and wait. Getting away is impossible because there is no fuel, nor electricity to pump it. I can't even grasp telling a person like this that she can't be paid.The shining light is the people of this industry. Many manufacturers have crafted creative ways to for us to limp along. Whole Earth has a standing offer to provide jobs to our staff. There is much more. I've probably received 200 hundred emails this week. It's hard to respond to everyone.But still, the bitter reality is beginning to set in. Close family members are reaching out after days of no contact only to say they are safe, but plan to never return. My oldest part- time employee (a guy who's been with me on virtually every paddling trip for five years) just emailed me that his family has bought a new house and will not be returning to Metairie. My wife's entire family has lost everything -- homes and all possessions.My grandmother-in-law is slowly coming to the realization that every relic of 85 years, every place she remembers, every picture, every memory of a recently lost husband is gone. Three outfits is all that is left. Her house is four blocks from the infamous levee. It will be bulldozed along with everything she owns.Still, we've made out better than most and are grateful. We have homes--damaged, but habitable. We have a place to work, but not a business.It's an odd plight. Everything changes every day. Every new bit of information is life-altering. Nothing is static -- no who, what, when or where is the same from hour-to-hour.

Only one thing does remain – that nothing will ever be the same.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Tomorrow I plan to leave St. Louis and return to my home parish north of New Orleans. I understand there is no power and the closest I can get to my house is about 1/2 a mile due to trees. Nevertheless, my home (and my mother's) have reasonably minor damage and must be secured. We expect to have power within a week to a week and a half. Also, my refrigerator will require some attention.

We have had some on the ground reports of employees who are allowed to enter Metairie (home to our main store and office) that the store suffered 6 inches of flooding and two roof collapses. Satellite imagery shows our flat roof totally full of water. Despite being a gigantic pain in the ass, we consider the flood damage a bittersweet blessing. Our biggest fear was that we somehow remained an island of no damage and thus would have no claim for business interruption (I have been informed by State Farm that just being banned from opening is technically not a loss). Now, within some prolonged period, hopefully, we will be able to access some funding to pay the store and it's staff's ongoing expenses. Could be months, but we are optimistic. I guess it's better than the worst case scenario.Lastly, we have no infrastructure to work from. All computers are down. Saved, but in a heap in Baton Rouge. We also have no way to get mail. So, over the next couple of weeks, we will re-deploy computers and get accounting up and running. The damage to our business was far less than it could have been. We hope to be back to normal in the reasonably near future. The damage though to our community, our economy, and our family's homes is far, far greater.

I've received an unbelievable amount of emails checking in and offering assistance. THANKS!!! It's great to have such good folks looking out for us. And thanks for everyone's participation in the relief effort.

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