A downtown Washougal business owner who used to live in the New Orleans area continues to provide graphic design services for organizations in that region, 13 years after Hurricane Katrina caused devastation to “The Big Easy.”
Lori Ann Reed, creative collaborator and owner of Reed Creative, LLC, in Washougal, recalled that she was entertaining a friend from New York in New Orleans during the weekend before Katrina hit in August 2005.
Reed said Katrina was not predicted to be a storm of great significance, so she and her friend listened to the radio, ate dinner at Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA restaurant in New Orleans, walked around the French Quarter, enjoyed a spa day and planned to host a barbecue that weekend.
There was no evacuation order at that time, but then the airport in New Orleans shut down as a precaution and Reed’s friend became nervous. Reed loaded up her dog and drove her friend about seven hours to the airport in Atlanta.
“I had intended to drop her off and head back to New Orleans, but in the time we were gone the storm took a turn for the worse and mandatory evacuations were being called for,” Reed said. “So instead, I headed to relatives in Nashville to remain during the storm.”
Her husband, Frank, a Merchant Marine, was battling typhoons on a ship in the far east, at that time.
Reed stayed with family members in Nashville for a week, “glued to the national news coverage” until after Hurricane Katrina passed and she could load up on food and gasoline and head back to the New Orleans area to assess the damage to her house and home office in the town of Mandeville, Louisiana.
Katrina claimed more than 1,800 lives.
“Martial law was in place, and tanks rolled the streets and you had to provide credentials and be escorted into your neighborhoods for safety reasons when they finally did allow access,” Reed said.
The power was out, gas lines were off, and cell phone lines were jammed in New Orleans.
After Reed saw that a large tree had fallen through the attic of their home in Mandeville, damaging the upstairs and allowing falling water in, she drove to a nearby town, Madisonville, Louisiana, and stayed with friends.
She needed to figure out how to get a hold of Frank overseas, find help to fix their house and communicate with clients who were not in the New Orleans area and did not realize the level of devastation that had occurred.
Frank flew home on emergency leave to handle the insurance, the contractors and the house rebuild, and Reed said she was able to focus on locating an office space from one of her clients who did not experience any damage from Katrina.
Reed got her business back up and running and assisted clients in New Orleans that needed to communicate with their employees and customers who were then scattered. She also helped the New Orleans chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, assist graphic designers affected by Katrina.
During the recovery phase, Reed alternated between staying with friends in Nashville and Madisonville.
She and her husband had their home rebuilt in New Orleans and put it on the market.
“We were resigned to be within the flood zone and so financing for such became difficult for buyers, and we needed to negotiate insurance as part of the purchase agreement,” Reed said.
After Hurricane Katrina, her husband’s ship changed port and they were free to consider other places to live as long as there was an airport nearby. They considered Seattle, Portland and Camas, before deciding to move to Washougal in 2010.
Reed’s longtime clients include the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, of New Orleans. The foundation’s mission is to inspire youth to reach their full potential through culinary, nutrition and arts education.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, Reed and the foundation were orchestrating the Carnivale du Vin, a fundraising weekend that was supposed to occur in New Orleans but was relocated to Las Vegas.
“We were required to figure out how to most effectively work together remotely to still be able to produce the materials needed for that first event,” Reed said. “So when we relocated here to the Pacific Northwest, we had confidence in our ability to work effectively together from different time zones.”
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Reed Creative, a 20-year-old business, has also provided graphic design services for Tulane University, in New Orleans.
Reed hired a business strategist, Salsbury & Co., of Vancouver, during the first quarter of 2017, when her business was “bursting at the seams” and she was working with 18 contractors, including copywriters, photographers, illustrators and designers, at various times. The strategist recommended she hire an employee to work on site to help grow the business.
Reed’s 200-square-foot home studio was too small to fit herself and an employee, so she hired her first employee, Heather Dias, a junior creative collaborator, in August 2017, and they moved the company the following month to a 664-square-foot leased suite at 1887 Main St., Washougal.
“My goal in hiring Heather is to help me lessen reliance on some of those contractors by taking some of those tasks in house,” Reed said.
From the office, Reed and Dias have a view of Main Street and the hills along the Columbia River.
The office is located a quarter mile from the Columbia River Dike Trail.
“On a nice day, I put on my running shoes after work,” Reed said.
Reed Creative, LLC, 1887 Main St., Ste. 201, Washougal, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call 360-210-4004, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit reedcreative.com.