Jane and Scott Wolfe married in their teens and have been working together ever since. They were raised in New Orleans and each have strong entrepreneurial roots, with Scott’s father running a construction business, Jane’s parents the owners of a grocery store and a beauty salon.
At 15, when Jane started showing signs of her pregnancy, her Catholic high school forced her to drop out. Jane and Scott started working at her father’s grocery store, learning everything they could and saving everything they could until they were able to start their own business in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.
The neighborhood was and is infamous for its crime, drugs, and poverty. The Wolfes, as teenage entrepreneurs, were not sure how they would be received. “Our neighbors could have turned against us, treating us as effigies of a system that cared less about them than it did its own crumbling drainage system,” Jane remembers. “But they didn’t.”
For over twenty years, Wagner’s Meat market thrived. The Wolfes became a fixture of the Ninth Ward. Their face-to-face interactions with the community inspired confidence that they were genuinely invested in the lives their store touched. Urged on by their success, they expanded to ten locations with nearly three hundred employees and served close to twenty thousand New Orleanians every day. Then Hurricane Katrina happened.
“If an arsonist had burned down every one of our locations on the same night, we would have been better off,” Scott says. Their grocery stores were gone, their employees were homeless and jobless, and the neighborhoods they served were largely destroyed.
Undeterred, Scott and Jane saw a need in the hurricane’s destruction and decided to found a new company, Wolfman Construction. Drawing from his experience working with his father, Scott began repairing his hometown. During this time, Jane both helped build the business and attended Tulane University, graduating cum laude with dual degrees in history and religious studies. She then went on to Harvard Divinity School, where she graduated in 2015 with a masters in theological studies. Today, she teaches a course on World Religions.
After six profitable years in construction, three of which were spent fighting insurance companies over their properties ruined in Katrina, the Wolfes decided it was time to get back to the kind of business they started in their youth. “Our bottom line had to be based on more than profit; it had to be based on how we were positively affecting society, the community, and the employees,” Jane explains. Their new restaurant, Melba’s, has gone on to earn a spot on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 List. Ranked #1 Fastest Growing Company in Louisiana and #123 in America.
“Through it all, from our shotgun marriage to building a multimillion-dollar grocery chain in New Orleans’s inner city and to losing it all in Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding once again,” Jane says. “We were, and continue to be, extraordinarily lucky.”
“Scott and Jane Wolfe’s journey epitomizes the values of perseverance, passion, and a commitment to community,” said former Mayor of New Orleans Marc Morial. “They have defined what it means to function as a double bottom-line business in twenty-first-century New Orleans.”