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About That Grocery

This is a draft of a letter I’m planning to send to Paul Curcuru of Metairie.

Dear Mr. Curcuru,

I am writing to you because I believe you are the owner of the property at 3126 BIENVILLE, according to the Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office.

To be more precise, I am attempting to contact the owner of the “Cajun V&T” grocery which is located at the corner of Bienville and Lopez. There is no street number on the building. I am including a picture of the building for your reference.

Cajun V&T

This building has not been touched since the flood. It is full of food products and is now overrun by rodents. This site is now an immediate hazard to public health. Children are living in the house next door. I have seen rats run from the grocery to this house. Further aggravating the hazard is the fact that the building has not been secured. Anyone can walk in the front door.

I have discussed this matter with the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization. The organization shares my concerns that this property represents a threat to the safety and well-being of our neighborhood. We intend to pursue all available avenues to the resolution of this problem. I have also apprised my City Council representative, Stacy Head (District B) and others in city government.

If you are indeed the owner of the property in question, I hope this letter is all that is needed to motivate you to take immediate action to clean up and secure the site. If you are not the owner, I apologize for the confusion. In either case, I respectfully request that you contact me as soon as possible and apprise me of the situation.

Any suggestions on how to improve this letter are welcome.

Published inLettersNeighborsNew Orleans


  1. You’re not the first person to suggest that, Barkeep. But I’m inclined to proceed incrementally. If I start off sending rat carcasses, I’ll have nowhere to go next.

  2. Make sure it’s his place. Then send the rat. One a day until he responds. I’m sure you won’t run out of rats.

    OOO! That reminds me of a joke.

    They switched from rats to lawyers at LSU to do their experiments. Why?
    1. They’ll never run out of lawyers
    2. There’s no way the researchers will become attached to the lawyers
    3. There are some things even rats won’t do.

    Sorry Dangerblond!

  3. Scott Scott

    From the picture and location, I’d guess that this store was the family’s sole source of income. Maybe the owner is old, lacking insurance proceeds, out of state and can’t do anything. Maybe the man died in 1984 and his widow couldn’t or wouldn’t start probate.

    You are not sure of the building’s street number and no one knows how current the assessor’s office is.

    Write the letter as a neighbor making sure the owner knows how bad the store has become. Appeal first to his own sense of responsibility. Have you any suggestions, other than he get off his duff and fix the problem? If so, let him know what they are. This is not your last opportunity to do something.

    To be less confrontational, delete the paragraph with references to MCIA and Stacey Head. Also delete the sentence, “This site is now an immediate hazard to public health” because it sounds like you’re a threatening lawyer. Leave in all the rat and children references.

    Maybe it won’t work. Maybe your letter will be returned by the post office.

    Put yourself in his shoes and add extra care for another New Orleanian/Metairoid whose luck has been awful.

  4. Scott, it’s funny, somebody else e-mailed me and said the following:

    “I think it’s a great letter – simple, direct, and polite. You aren’t threatening him, though you have made it clear that there are others that will be watching his reaction. What I like about it is that it shows that you are expecting the best from him rather than the worst. I have often found that when you make it easy for people to do the right thing then they will.”

    I thought this was interesting because you seem to share the same concerns, but have different perspectives on the tone struck by the letter as written.

    For what it’s worth, I share your concerns, but I’m not sure how to balance my caring for a fellow resident with my sense of urgency that something be done quick. I appreciate your thoughtful suggestions.

  5. TC TC

    I realize the mail is not working down there, but have you thought of sending another copy of the letter to simply Cajun V and T grocery store, with the appropriate zip code for the location? If someone has been receiving mail, they may get it that way too.. (it may communicate your efforts and the urgency ) and how you tried everything.. (and mark it forwarding address requested..) [I do realize that in NOLA right now, this is a bit ridiculous, but worth a shot]

    In addition, you might consider handwriting the note..write it on non threatening paper (but do make a copy).. this tactic may appeal the neighborhood feeling etc.. if that is your angle. Allow the formal letters to be saved for escalation.

    You know there are many people who walk around thinking that all people are by nature good – this person might just suprise you when called to task.

  6. Dang. I was gonna offer to send you a picture of a nice yellow excavator with a big stick and a muncher to photoshop into the pic. 😉

    Seriously, good luck, B. It sounds like a scary mess.

  7. Jon Jon

    I’d probably mention that I’d help in some way to clean it up, if he would give the go-ahead. Maybe he hasn’t cleaned it because he lost everything, and another ten grand of demo labor is too much to deal with.

    If that was in my neighborhood, I probably wouldn’t mind donating a Saturday of my time toward hauling crap to the curb, and I’m sure some others would help. (I’d wear a gas mask and some damn thick gloves, though.)

  8. B. Nelson B. Nelson

    Googleing: “Cajun V&T”

    35941437K 05/17/2005 CAJUN V&T FOOD STORE, LLC 4874 SAVOIE COURT NEW ORLEANS, LA 70129


    Sunday, May 29, 2005

    New domestic business incorporations for the New Orleans metro area
    filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office, May 16 – May 20.
    All addresses are in Louisiana. Names listed are company officers.

    Cajun V&T Food Store, LLC, 4874 Savoie Court, New Orleans, 70129, Vivian Nguyen.

    I hope this might be of some help.

    B. Nelson
    Turks & Caicos Islands

  9. Thanks for all the comments so far. These suggestions, info and ideas are very helpful. They are sensitizing me to possibilities I hadn’t considered.

    My powers of deduction lead me to believe that the Ms Nguyen was leasing from Mr Curcuru. But I could be way off base.

    Where does responsibility lie? With the property owner or the lessee? I’d think, ultimately, it is the owner who is responsible. But I’m usually wrong about these things.

  10. The responsibility is allocated by the lease, but ultimately rests with the Owner.

    If Ms. Nguyen is a tenant she likely has no lease, as the property is unusable (google “constructive eviction”). IANAL.

    I’d suggest that you go through the city but at present they seem to be preoccupied.

    If you can find a lawyer to take it on contingency or better yet “pro bono” go for it.

  11. The contract is most likley null and void, so the owner is responsible. There is a press conference tommorow about the implementation of the Good Neighbor Policy. Let’s see what the City comes up with.

  12. Tim Tim

    Altough I’d be tempted to toss in a “fucker” here and there, I think you’re taking the high road and should get a better response. I think I’ve been there–is it right behind the RTA building? If so, I’ve gotten sandwiches from the deli in the back. Not planning on doing THAT ever again…

    Clearing out the debris and putting it on the curb would do no good. The city only picks up trash and debris from residential properties. Somebody is going to have to pay to clean that mess up.



  13. Tim, you are probably thinking of Adam’s grocery. It’s at Bienville and Gayoso. They cleaned it up many months ago, renovated, and they’re now open and better than ever. It’s still not all I’d hope for in a corner grocery but that’s fodder for another post another day. By all means patronize them. I do.

  14. Good luck sorting out the ownership issue. In the meantime, I think your letter is just right – tone included.

    (Sure you don’t want to become a lawyer, Editor B? We’re not all bad, Howie L.)

  15. Normally, in most other cities, you could go online to your tax assessors web site and see who the actual owner is. Also, does not the city website have a link for ‘problem properties’, I believe you can call the city 311 service and ask ?

  16. Mike F,

    Yes, I consulted the Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office website. That is how I got Mr. Curcuru’s name. Are the records up-to-date? I don’t know. And yes, I reported this on the city’s website. There are thousands of nuisance properties in the city now. I belieeve this one deserves more urgent attention.

  17. […] They pegged it to Nagin’s 100+3 day press conference, citing his quip about commercial blight, and then seguing to our rodent-infested grocery. […]

  18. Anonymous Anonymous

    I was a friend of the curcuru’s for many years; the store was owned by Joe Cucuru but was sold by his sons after he died. I believe they sold the property to a Vietnamese family.

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