A return to the shelves two months in the making for 'Hola Nola' founder
GEISMAR – It almost looks like a horror movie inside what’s left of the 'Hola Nola' warehouse in Ascension Parish. A fork lift steering wheel is left melted down, and black charred drippings are stained on the outside of the building two months after the structure caught on fire.
“At my age this is definitely the roughest, toughest thing I've ever gone through,” said founder and CEO Kevin Holden.
In reality though, the destruction is turning into more of a comeback story for Holden.
"We had one moment. Kim [the general manager] got here before I did and we hugged, we cried for a minute and then we said we have to get back to work,” said Holden.
The electric fire happened in mid-June when no employees were inside the building. It rekindled for a second time leaving hundreds of destroyed chip and tortillas bags floating down the street.
"Making product for 16 hours a day, it stacks up. We were getting truckloads in of corn, truckloads in of water just massive amounts of raw materials and finished goods going out,” said Holden.
Some of the leftovers are still inside of the structure, but now new products are being made again somewhere else.
"We're having tortillas made offsite, we're having chips made offsite, we have our employees at those facilities and they are watching the product to make sure they are matching our recipe. We shipped them our ingredients,” said Holden.
Holden is having to rely on other manufacturers to get his products on the grocery store shelves again, but it's happening.
"So far on our chips we have done the authentic and blue corn. We haven't made creole flavor or red beans and rice yet. We just started making corn tortillas and spinach wraps,” said Holden.
The headaches though aren't over. For one, it's around a $8 million loss, 40 of the hourly employees had to be laid off and the option to rebuild has gone out the window due to a backlog in steel.
"If you could pick the perfect time to do this and have struggles getting a place and machines it came at that time,” said Holden.
The one thing the company can bank on is the customers.
"We've learned that being in Louisiana the love here for local is amazing,” said Holden.
And the demand for ‘Hola Nola’ products never went away changing the theme to this story from frightening to flourishing.
"We're not going anywhere. We're too stubborn, or stupid I don't know,” laughed Holden.
Customers can find ‘Hola Nola’ products in Rouses and in Associated Groceries Inc stores, which includes Matherne’s and Hi-Nabor. The founder is currently looking for a new building to start up his own production again. The New Orleans warehouse is handling all of the distribution.
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