The Karnofsky Shop, New Orleans’ first jazz record store and the place where an immigrant Jewish family helped along Louis Armstrong’s music career, has been demolished by Hurricane Ida, reports CBS affiliate WWL-TV.
Ida made landfall Sunday as one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the US. It carried so much force it reversed the flow of the Mississippi river and resulted in at least one death, with the potential for more casualties as rescue crews struggle to reach stranded residents.
Given the human devastation, the Karnofsky Shop won’t be the greatest loss in the storm, though it will be felt dearly by lovers of music history. According to A Closer Walk NOLA, the Karnofsky family opened a tailor shop in 1913, and hired Armstrong when he was just a child to work on their junk wagon. As he recalled, “Every time we would come in late on the little wagon from buying old rags and bones, when they would be having ‘supper’ they would fix a plate of food for me, saying you’ve worked, might as well eat here with us.”
Armstrong would often play his tin horn while the junk wagon made its rounds, and when he spotted a cornet in a pawn shop, the family loaned him the money to buy it. “After blowing the tin horn — so long — I wondered how would I do blowing a real horn — a cornet was what I had in mind. Sure enough, I saw a little cornet in a pawn shop window — five dollars — my luck was just right. With the Karnofskys loaning me on my salary — I saved 50 cents a week, and bought the horn. All dirty — but was soon pretty to me.”
Morris Karnofsky, the family’s son who became childhood friends with Armstrong, would go on to found Morris Music, New Orleans’ first jazz record store. Armstrong visited Morris Music several times after moving away, and the site earned a spot on National Register of Historic Places.
In recent years the building had fallen into disrepair, though according to the Times-Picayune, it had been acquired in 2019 by a Cleveland real-estate group, with plans to rehabilitate the site and perhaps turn it into a night club. Given the devastation, it’s unclear if they still plan to rebuild in a way that honors the musical history.