The History of Arabi Food Store
Elliot Gaspard became a grocer after getting out of the service and marrying Sybil DeSoto in 1953. He owned and operated numerous grocery stores in the New Orleans area. In 1960, they decided to move to the suburb of St. Bernard Parish to raise their two daughters, Debbie and Donna. In 1961, he purchased the St. Maurice Grocery located in the 9th Ward. In 1973, they decided to purchase the Arabi Food Store in historic Old Arabi, a family grocery in a well established neighborhood with great opportunities and minutes from home.
Elliot provided groceries, fresh meats and staples for his new neighbors and quickly realized the hard working people of St. Bernard needed more than cold cuts and bread. Hot plates and warmers were added to serve roast beef, Patton’s hot sausage and four star Chisesi ham po-boys from behind the meat case. Hard working longshoremen and others working on the river found out about the little corner grocery store and made it a regular stop. It didn’t take long for Elliot to realize and add a full service kitchen to keep up with the appetites of St. Bernard Parish.
Our building at 650 Friscoville Avenue was believed to have been built in the early 1900’s. Along the river were gambling casino’s, a Ford Plant and The Domino Sugar Refinery. The Maumus High School was the first high school in St. Bernard Parish, built in 1928, located on our block and is on the historical register for St. Bernard Parish.
In the mid 1980’s, Elliot and Sybil’s two daughters and their husbands began working in the family business. Elliot and Sybil then decided to travel more and retire to there lovely home in Diamondhead, Mississippi.
Elliot passed away in April of 2004, the gambling casino’s are gone along with the old Ford Plant. Domino Sugar turned 100 years old in 2009 and is now the largest sugar refinery in the country. Public schools are back and better than ever since Katrina. St. Bernard residence are coming home and neighborhoods are rebuilding at a brisk pace. Arabi Food Store is still the biggest little store in the parish and some say they still see Elliot early mornings at the door with apron on and a muffuletta in hand .
So you see, some things are so good they never need to change.
Come visit us soon,
Debbie and Mitchell Smith