The High Rise Bridge is like the symbolic beginning of East New Orleans for those traveling on Interstate 10 daily. Cross over it, and soon it becomes clear that many parts of the East, like the old Lake Forest Plaza or Six Flags site, remain just as they did in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit.
But at the crest of the High Rise, you can see the light of a rebirth. It’s the Dixie Beer brewing facility, which is currently being renovated in the old MacFrugal’s warehouse building. It’s a story of rising from the ashes, literally and figuratively. The MacFrugal’s building burned down in a huge 1996 fire but is now being completely overhauled. Dixie Beer, a brand started in 1907 returned to local shelves in 2017 after its facility was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Before businessman Tom Benson died in 2018, he took part in the site selection process. The company says the location alone boasts numerous plus sides.
“The benefits of the MacFrugal location include: great access to highways/transit for shipments and deliveries, large-enough space to accommodate current and future growth needs, and the opportunity to make a meaningful investment in the New Orleans East community with jobs and capital equipment in the long-term,” said Jim Birch, general manager of Dixie Beer.
In the first year, Dixie will provide 50 new jobs and have enough capacity to brew, ferment and package upward of 65,000 barrels of beer in kegs, cans and bottles, Birch said.
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Once visitors walk into the familiar archway of the building entrance, they’ll come into a merchandise shop, as well as a pub and restaurant with views of the brewing facility behind it. The company hopes that locals who work in the East, such as those at the nearby Folgers Coffee or Michoud NASA facilities, can grab a bite to eat on their lunch breaks. The center has event spaces for beer tastings and meetings. And of course, what’s a pub without chances for viewing parties during Saints away games?
“We are planning to dedicate a portion of the retail area for a Dixie Beer museum that will include interactive displays and mementos from Dixie’s 112-year history,” Birch said. “The tours will include the opportunity to watch beer production on our 100-barrel and 15-barrel brewhouses – as well as to sample Dixie Beers while reading about our history.”
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Offering tours to the East is one of the big goals Dixie hopes to fulfill once it opens to the public in January.
“We hope that Dixie’s commitment to New Orleans East is just one more compelling reason for other businesses to consider the community for their own future investments,” Birch said. “New Orleans East is Dixie’s home and will be for the long run. It’s a part of the city that hasn’t fully realized it’s potential since Hurricane Katrina but we think that’s about to change. We see an opportunity to bring skilled jobs, tourism, and additional investment to the community as one of our top priorities and obligations as a 112-year-old New Orleans business.”