From Real Estate To Roots: Curtis Doucette Jr. Reopens Historic Dew Drop Inn

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New Orleans is rich in Black music and culture. Curtis Doucette Jr., a native, has long been involved in real estate in his hometown. His latest project, revitalizing the Dew Drop Inn, has reconnected him with his roots.

In March 2024, Doucette and his team reopened the Dew Drop Inn for the first time since 1972. Despite growing up in New Orleans, Doucette hadn’t heard of this legendary Black cultural venue until five years ago.

Though Doucette was immersed in New Orleans culture, he only gained a deep appreciation for it in later years, which propelled his real estate career. Raised in Tremé, a historically Black neighborhood, he recalled being a  “mere participant” in events like Mardi Gras and the famous “second line,” Bloomberg reports.

“I started purchasing homes while I had a job,” Doucette said, recalling his real estate journey, which began at age 26 with a $40,000 annual salary. His dream was to own multifamily apartments as a profitable investment.

“I always saw myself as more than just a small investor,” he added. “I saw myself as building a business even when it was little.”

With several large complexes under his belt, Doucette was living his version of the American Dream. When a developer approached him to renovate the Dew Drop Inn in 2019, he initially declined but was intrigued enough to visit the property. The rest is history.

From 1939 to 1972, the Dew Drop Inn was a hub of rock ‘n’ roll and stars like James Brown and Aretha Franklin. Created by entrepreneur Frank Painia, the venue, located on Lasalle Street across from the former Magnolia Projects, started as a barbershop and bar before becoming a nightclub listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book during the Jim Crow era. It closed in 1972 after Painia’s death.

None of this history was known to Doucette before being approached for the project.

“If I had heard of it, it didn’t stick,” he said.

During his first visit, Doucette met Kenneth Jackson, Painia’s grandson. He discovered his uncle had lived at the Dew Drop Inn as a drummer.

Five years later, Doucette accomplished what no other developer had: the Dew Drop Inn is now New Orleans’ only Black-owned hotel. It has 17 rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, and an adjacent bar and restaurant. The original barbershop is now a museum, retaining one of its original chairs.

“Opening was a dream come true,” said Doucette. “Things came to fruition how I had envisioned them, and in many cases better than I had envisioned.”

Doucette says the biggest challenge was financing the $11 million project as a first-time sole developer. With sales of some properties, help from family and friends, and an investment from Painia’s grandson who became a limited partner, along with support from an unnamed famous musician, the Dew Drop Inn is once again a vibrant spot in the Crescent City.

“It was just not taking no for an answer and always believing there was a way to make it work,” said Doucette.

He envisions the Dew Drop Inn reclaiming its throne as the hub for musical discovery.

“If I could live my dream further through this project, there will be new genres of music that people are talking about 50 to 100 years from now,” said Doucette, “that started with people who performed at the Dew Drop Inn.”


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