Actor Turned Grocer Wendell Pierce Focuses on the Big Easy

It seems like a long way from Baltimore's drug scene to building grocery stores in Katrina-hit New Orleans. But it's a transition actor and philanthropist Wendell Pierce is navigating gracefully.

Pierce played detective William "Bunk' Moreland in the HBO series "The Wire" about the Maryland city through the eyes of drug dealers and law enforcement. (It was an awesome show. Just sayin'.)

The actor has recently beefed up his entrepreneurial credentials and is building grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, he noticed commercial regions weren't recovering, and reached out to the community.

"I put out a call to action to our generation saying, our neighborhood was destroyed with some of the deepest flooding. Our parents worked so hard to build this great neighborhood. And I said it's on us to make sure that we rebuild it, Pontchartrain Park," said Pierce on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.

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Actor and entrepreneur, Wendell Pierce
Getty Images
Actor and entrepreneur, Wendell Pierce

Sterling Farms

Pierce along with Troy Henry of Henry Consulting are planning to open four grocery stores during the next two years. All the stores will feature fresh produce, which can be hard to come by in the neighborhood. Henry previously worked for corporate America including stints at HP and IBM.

The new grocery stores — called Sterling Farms — will employ about 50 people per location. Sterling Farms's plans include offering free rides home to customers who spend at least $50.

"If people were coming back to the neighborhoods, we had to make sure they had an opportunity to shop," Pierce said. The neighborhood has too many "food deserts" post Katrina, he said.

"It's very profitable," Henry said. "We think that what we call the heavily urban markets are under served. And as a result, providing them with the right service, the right quality and price points, we think we can make it a very lucrative business."

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By CNBC's Heesun Wee; Follow her on Twitter @heesunwee