‘A LITTLE PO’BOY SHOP’ OWNER
Jane (SLA ’12) and Scott Wolfe have spent a lifetime together composing their own remarkable story as a couple who met as teenagers, married and forged a relationship as business partners in one of New Orleans’ most successful restaurants. They are also passionate entrepreneurs who use their current restaurant, Melba’s Famous Po’Boys, as a setting to engage the community through an enhanced literacy program.
In 2020, the couple co-authored From GED to Harvard Then Inc. 500: How Two Teens Went From GEDs to Building the Fastest Growing Business in New Orleans. The book, which reveals their trials and tribulations of servicing New Orleanians for over 41 years and then starting over from scratch after Hurricane Katrina, was featured on the cover of Forbes Book Review’s spring 2021 edition.
“We were surprised Forbes wanted to feature us on the cover of their magazine, but it’s not because we’re the best business in the world, because we’re not,” said Jane Wolfe. “They are featuring us because of what we do as a little po’boy shop in New Orleans that engages with the community and addresses some societal ills, which is literacy inside of any community. So, if a little po’boy shop can do it, surely the Fortune 500 businesses can do it as well.”
Situated on Elysian Fields Avenue at the crossroads of the Seventh, Eighth and Upper Ninth Wards of New Orleans, Melba’s opened in 2012. The 24-hour restaurant quickly blossomed into a local favorite for its po’boy and authentic cuisine.
The Wolfes have also transformed Melba’s into a beacon of light, promoting literacy with the “Lunch & Literacy” initiative that attracts some of the top local and national authors to their restaurant for book signings and book giveaways. Customers who come for lunch during the signings receive a free book. To date, Melba’s, together with participation from visiting authors, has given away 6,700 books inside an area of town designated as a book desert.
Jane, who is also an adjunct professor in Tulane’s School of Professional Advancement and at the University of Holy Cross, began hosting authors in 2017. Author Jonathan Walton, who served as her graduate advisor at Harvard, where she earned her master’s degree in theology in 2015, was the first featured author. The second author was Colson Whitehead, whose 2016 book, The Underground Railroad, won both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize and immediately established Melba’s as a New Orleans literary destination. Since 2017, close to 50 authors have appeared at the restaurant, and each one has their photograph on display.