Shopping in the French Quarter
Craid Mulcahy Photographs
After a weekend visit to the French Quarter, I’m here to tell you that there are possibly more places to shop there than there are restaurants – and knowing how much we like to eat, that’s saying something.
Whether you’re looking for clothing, jewelry, shoes, hats, accessories or a piece of New Orleans’ past, the French Quarter offers all that and so much more. I have my favorite places to visit each time I’m there, as I bet you do, too, but on my last visit, I found a bunch of new places that deserve our attention.
There is no way to cover all of the wonderful places to shop in the French Quarter, but here are eight suggestions.
Looking for that perfect hostess gift, or a rug to tie your room together? Look no further than Nadine Blake’s eponymous shop, Nadine Blake LLC. It is filled with a unique combination of vintage and new items artfully arranged to reflect Blake’s love of traveling, collecting and decorating. Though she’s only been open for a couple years, her boutique is quietly taking over her corner of Royal Street. Whether it’s jewelry, art books, bags, furniture or stationery, you’ll leave with the hostess gift you came in for – and much more besides.
After four years in their brick-and-mortar on Royal Street (they were located in the French Market from 2001 until ’07), Papier Plume has a loyal and vocal following. While most of us fire off an email instead of mailing a letter, or send a text without really thinking, there’s a small – but growing – backlash to that trend who values handwritten correspondence and the trappings thereof. Papier Plume offers both the tools – quill and glass dipping pens, inkwells, sealing wax, handmade stationery paper and more – and the know-how to get you started sharing your heartfelt messages the old-fashioned way.
Opened in 2011, Green Eyed Gator Gallery and Gifts is packed with handmade arts and crafts by (almost) exclusively all Louisiana artisans. Here you can find decorated oyster magnets, jewelry, handcrafted furniture, fine art dolls, glassware and walls covered in art – all for sale from $2 into the thousands of dollars. Stop by to view owner, and Loyola University graduate, Shannon Kelley’s paintings and stay for the conversation and shopping.
The Big Guns.
See that attractive woman in the well-crafted asymmetrical jacket with the perfect accessory? If she bought it in New Orleans, chances are it came from Wise Buys. From on-trend items, such as corset belts, crossover purses and watches that double as bracelets, to the aforementioned jackets, collectable Ray Cole scarves, tunics and more, Wise Buys offers wear-it-now items that also make great gifts. Owned by a mother-and-daughter team, the staff also makes helpful recommendations. Though you may end up taking home more than you bargained for, you won’t regret it.
You know The Historic New Orleans Collection for its exhibitions (including “Seeking the Unknown: National History Observations in Louisiana 1698-1840” through June 2) and its collections (including “The Collins C. Diboll Vieux Carré Digital Survey” and “A Guide to French Louisiana Manuscripts” among many others), plus its publications and programs. But you might not yet have visited its shop – and that’s a shame. Featuring a range of items from Michael P. Smith photography to home décor, jewelry, maps, note cards, books and more, shopping at THNOC means taking home a piece of our city’s history.
The Louisiana Music Factory should, in my opinion, be every visitor’s first stop, and every local’s go-to place to purchase local and regional music in New Orleans. Carrying the “widest selection of Louisiana and New Orleans music on compact disc and vinyl records in the world,” they also host in-store performances. In need of the Wild Tchoupitoulas’ eponymous recording to bring a bit of Mardi Gras into your home? They have it. Searching for the latest CD from the To Be Continued Brass Band? They have that, too. While you can order all this and more from their website, I suggest you visit the store and spend a few hours finding your next favorite album.
Within a block of St. Louis Cathedral, Librairie Book Shop is stacked floor-to-ceiling with new, old and hard-to-find volumes cheek by jowl with posters and vintage postcards. While you could spend a day here and not find the exact book you’re looking for, you’ll find armfuls of them that you never knew you needed – until now. Still not sure what you want, but know you’re missing something? Ask the very knowledgeable staff.
When you need, not want, the perfect crystal flute or 18th-century dining table, it’s time to visit Lucullus. With a focus on “fine culinary antiques,” it caters to the burgeoning collector as well as the serious connoisseur (proprietor Patrick Dunne even wrote the book: The Epicurean Collector). From furniture to glass, art to linens and, of course, silver, Lucullus’ staff can research and identify that one piece in your collection for which you don’t have provenance or consult with you to help build your collection.
When in Need of Refreshment
Shopping is hard work, so you’ll need refreshments to keep you going. Here are three options for slaking your shopping-induced thirst.
New on the scene (they’ve only been open since Mardi Gras), the smallness of Spitfire’s space gives new meaning to “minimal seating,” but the coffee is totally worth it. Pore over coffee and espresso, cold brewed ice coffee, homemade chocolate syrup – all delivered by knowledgeable and talented aficionados. (627 St. Peter St., twitter.com/spitfirecoffee)
When your dogs are barkin’ head over to Royal Blend, not only for its tasty treats and large assortment of coffees and teas, but for its cozy inside seating and beautiful courtyard, which comes complete with a fountain, overhanging greenery and iron tables and chairs. (621 Royal St., 523-2716, RoyalBlendCoffee.com)
Just steps away (but a whole other kind of refreshment), when celebrating or in need of a consolatory drink the place to go if you’re shopping in the heart of the French Quarter is the bar at The Court of Two Sisters. Treat yourself to your favorite cocktail, throw yourself on the mercy of the very talented bartenders or order a pitcher of mimosas and toast to your success. (613 Royal St., 522-7261, CourtOfTwoSisters.com)
Find Them Here
Green Eyed Gator Gallery and Gifts
901 Chartres St.
The Historic New Orleans Collection
533 Royal St.
Librairie Book Shop
823 Chartres St.
Louisiana Music Factory
210 Decatur St.
610 Chartres St.
Nadine Blake LLC
1036 Royal St.
842 Royal St.
532 Chartres St.