In 1923, when J.P. Rouse founded the City Produce Company in Thibodaux, Louisiana, customers who were used to going to the corner store for groceries were just starting to shop at supermarkets. Rouse knew the best produce in America came from Louisiana, and he wanted the rest of country to know it, too. His City Produce Company set about buying locally grown fruits and vegetables from farmers in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes, and at the French Market in New Orleans. City Produce Company would sort, pack and ship the fresh produce all over the country for sale in supermarkets as far away as Alaska.
From the start, the City Produce Company was a family business. For years, Anthony J. Rouse worked by his father J.P.'s side, learning the produce business from the ground up. As Thibodaux and the neighboring town of Houma swelled with the oil boom, Anthony saw an opportunity to take what his father had done one step further. In 1960, Anthony and his cousin, Ciro DiMarco, opened their first grocery store with four employees and one motto: buy the best in Louisiana and bring the best to Louisiana. Along with the fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables that City Produce Company supplied, the 7,000-square-foot Houma market stocked Louisiana seafood, dry goods, and fresh meat.
Anthony's sons, Donald and Tommy Rouse, joined the family business in the late 1970s, working their way up from box boys to store managers. By then Ciro had left the business, and Anthony, with the help of his sons, was running stores in Houma, Raceland and the Rouses' adopted hometown of Thibodaux. Over the next 10 years, the company continued to expand across South Louisiana, opening locations in Lockport, Cut Off and Morgan City.
In the 1980s, while Anthony remained active in operations, the second generation of the family took over day-to-day management of the company. By the time Rouses opened its first store in Metairie in 1995,
Rouses had been named the largest independent grocer in Louisiana and was gaining national recognition.
In 2003, with Donald and Tommy Rouse at the helm, Rouses expanded into another new market, opening a 54,000 square-foot store in Covington. That store was soon followed by other St. Tammany Parish locations in Mandeville and Slidell, and the managing partners were joined by a third generation.
In 2007, two years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the New Orleans area, Rouses acquired A&P's Southern Division, giving the company its first stores along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in New Orleans itself. Rouses doubled in size overnight.
Sadly, the Rouse family and team suffered the loss of their patriarch and founder on March 5, 2009, but Rouses second and third generation continue to grow and nurture the company he founded over 50 years ago. Donald's son Donny Rouse and Tommy's daughter Allison Rouse Royster are now an integral part of the management and direction of the company their grandfather founded over 50 years ago, and that they grew up working in and learning from the bottom up.
Rouses opened four new stores in 2011, including the first full-service grocery store in downtown New Orleans in nearly 50 years. In 2013, announcements were made for new stores in Lafayette on Johnston at Duhon, on the West Bank Expressway at Stumpf in Gretna, and for the company's first foray into Alabama, with the aquisition of five stores along Mobile Bay: in Theodore, Mobile, Saraland, Spanish Fort, and Gulf Shores.
Rouses continues to grow its market, through staying on top of food trends, truly listening to the requests of its customers and neighbors, and remaining true to the spirit of community that was instilled by Mr. Rouse in 1960.
Rouses is one of the largest independent grocers in the United States, with 38 stores in two states and 5,400 team members. It has consistently been voted “Best Supermarket,” and “One of the Best Places to Work.”
J.P. Rouse, father of Rouses founder Anthony Rouse Sr., is pictured here with colleagues in his produce shipping business. Anthony grew up working alongside his father, learning the food industry as a young man and eventually opening a grocery store with his cousin, Ciro DiMarco in 1960.