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Coffee Roaster Carries on After Wife's Death, Katrina

Bill Siemers and one of his new coffee roasters in his new operation near the New Orleans airport.
Frank Langfitt, NPR
Bill Siemers and one of his new coffee roasters in his new operation near the New Orleans airport.

Bill Siemers lost his wife to cancer nine days before Hurricane Katrina struck. But instead of closing the New Orleans coffee-roasting company they ran together for a dozen years, he's investing even more in the business.

Siemers and his wife, Kathleen, ran Coffee Roasters of New Orleans together. The company buys beans, roasts them and sells them wholesale to local coffee shops.

Siemers, 59, borrowed more than $500,000 from a friend. Then he bought a roasting plant out by the airport from a competitor who was moving to Dallas. Setting up shop has gone smoothly -- but now Siemers faces a new uncertainty: Only 30 percent of his wholesale customers have reopened.

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Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.