Meet the man who brought food back to the Lower 9th Ward

Meet the Man Who Brought Food Back to the Lower Ninth Ward
Meet the Man Who Brought Food Back to the Lower Ninth Ward

"The lower ninth ward is the only part of New Orleans where you still will see Katrina."

Burnell Cotlon is a lifelong resident of the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans and he's become somewhat of a local celebrity, with journalists coming from far and wide to tell his tale.

Cotlon has been hailed for opening a grocery store. That might seem like a pretty mundane achievement, but the Lower 9th Ward, which was completely ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, didn't have a single grocery store until he opened the Lower 9th Ward Market in late 2014.

SEE MORE:Special coverage on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

He says he spent his entire life savings to open the store, but it's worth it to him.

While many other parts of New Orleans have been restored to their pre-storm state, his neighborhood still has rundown buildings and empty lots. Cotlon believes that's one of the reasons many of his old neighbors left town for other cities and never returned.

"Why should I come back? There's no stores there," he says.

See the damage in the Lower Ninth Ward post-Katrina:

He hopes the "come in, we're open" sign on the front door will help change their minds and help finally resurrect the community and bring the robust recovery that's yet to be realized.

"I really believe that as business come back, people are going to come back, and the lower ninth ward will look like the rest of the city," Cotlon says.

"Here in New Orleans, everybody have a Katrina story. But you know what? Everybody has a comeback story, even the residents in the Lower 9th Ward," he says. "That's what we do here in New Orleans as a whole. We come back, and we always going to come back."

Related: Photos of present day New Orleans and how the city bounced back: