Magazine Street businesses continue to thrive
photos by jeffery johnston
Whether you’re looking for a poor boy, a pair of boots or a Pilates studio, there’s one street in New Orleans where you can find a boutique or business to suit your needs, and unlike Veterans Memorial Boulevard, this is a street that draws tourists just as much as locals. The six miles of Magazine Street that carry you from Audubon Park to Canal Street is perhaps best known for its shopping scene, with everything from antiques and art, to gifts, specialty items and, of course, fashion. Let us take a leisurely stroll and check in on the variety of local businesses who have made a home on the lively thoroughfare.
Starting our stroll in the Garden District, just one block from Whole Foods, Pelican Coast Clothing Company is located on Magazine (lakeside) between Joseph and Octavia Streets, surrounded by a number of boutiques and nearby popular mojito spot St. Joe’s Bar. A newcomer to the Magazine Street scene, Pelican Coast opened its doors in 2014.
“We believe Magazine Street is the heart of New Orleans shopping since it’s comprised of locally owned businesses that are part of the Uptown community. As a business that isn’t only locally owned, but which also manufactures a large portion of our apparel and accessories in New Orleans, Magazine Street was the perfect place for our first store,” says owner Allison Maxwell.
Pelican Coast sells men’s and boy’s apparel and accessories with a coastal theme. Famous for its southern, preppy style, Pelican Coast’s sport shirts, polos and T-shirts are appropriately placed near the university end of Magazine Street; the store also offers southern-themed neckwear, belts, caps and fishing wear. Pet products are a new addition to the lineup, and this spring Pelican Coast will introduce a full new men’s line of swimwear, shorts, pants and shirts.
Located one block towards Jefferson Avenue is Scriptura, a veteran Magazine Street establishment that’s well known for its stationery and invitations with a highly curated selection of products.
“In addition to importing high end paper goods, Scriptura self produces an eponymous collection of stationery, invitations, journals and wrapping papers with custom illustrations reflecting the delights of New Orleans and the Southern lifestyle,” says Margaret Jones, who co-owns the business along with Sallie Jones. Scriptura was founded in 1995 and celebrated 20 years on Magazine Street last year. According to Jones, the location on Magazine still houses its letterpress atelier with five antique printing presses in constant use.
“When Scriptura opened in 1995, the main businesses on the street were PJ’s Coffee and Earthsavers. Since then we have watched the two blocks between Jefferson and Octavia become a truly dynamic and sophisticated shopping destination,” says Jones. Scriptura now shares the block with Angelique Shoe, Kay’s, Blink and Basics, in addition to two coffee shops, a bank and a salon.
Crossing over Jefferson Avenue and continuing three blocks takes us to barre3, which offers an innovative studio workout with a philosophy that incorporates body nourishment and connectivity in addition to exercise.
“By combining the best of ballet work, the wisdom of yoga and the strength of Pilates, barre3 classes follow a thoughtful sequence for fast body shaping results and long term postural benefits,” says Kendall Carriere, Owner. According to Carriere, classes are taught to upbeat playlists and are designed to transform the body’s balance, strength and flexibility.
The studio opened on Magazine in May 2013 – its success has led to a second opening downtown and a third forthcoming in Old Metairie. Carriere enjoys the studio’s visibility on Magazine and convenience for Uptown residents, many of whom walk to barre3’s classes. While the majority of barre3’s clients are locals, the studio does get a fair share of visitors and according to Carriere, many regular clients will share the classes with visiting family and friends.
Continuing east a dozen or so blocks will take you to Feet First, which is located on the river side of Magazine. In business for nearly 40 years, Feet First has been located on Magazine Street for 25 of them. With a recent move from one spot to another on the same block, Feet First continues to please its loyal fan base, celebrating seven years in a row as “Best Shoe Store in New Orleans” by Gambit readers.
According to Evie Poitevent, Owner & Buyer at Feet First, being on Magazine Street means being in the literal and metaphorical heart of New Orleans.
“Magazine Street is the main artery of local, mom-and-pop retail, and we strongly believe that needs to be recognized, valued and protected by the people and even the city of New Orleans. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming ‘Anywheresville, USA,’” says Poitevent. Poitevent refers to her area of the street, the blocks between Napoleon and Louisiana, as “Middle Magazine” and notes that the scene is more densely populated, diverse and filled with great restaurants – a big difference from just 10 to 15 years ago.
New Orleans’ largest independent retailer of women’s shoes, handbags, accessories and numerous local designers, Feet First satisfies both comfort and fashion seekers and has a diverse customer base.
After donning your new shoes from Feet First, enjoy an easy five-block stroll down to Art & Eyes, the focal-focused creation of co-owners Starr Hagenbring and Paul Wilcox. Specializing in fashionable eyewear, Art & Eyes offers a diverse collection of frames and sunglasses from a number of independent local, national and international designers. Art & Eyes is approaching five years on Magazine Street.
“Paul was musing about a store … I told him if he wanted a store in New Orleans that it had to be on Magazine Street between the Garden District and Uptown, specifically between Louisiana and Napoleon, and on the river side of the street,” says Hagenbring. Three weeks later, a friend unaware of the pair’s musings called with news of a listing on the street in the exact same location. For Hagenbring, the timing was “magical,” and the rest is history.
“Even the name of our interior paint turned out to be ‘Magical.’ I said to myself, ‘I think this is going to work!’” she says.
The lively atmosphere of Art & Eyes complements the fun of trying on frames, which range from traditional to avant-garde. Prices range, too, from as low as $99 to upwards of $2,200.
On the next block, California Drawstrings is a fairly recent arrival to the Magazine Street scene, though not to New Orleans. The opening was spawned by a somewhat unusual circumstance: a building collapse temporarily impeded service at its long-established French Quarter location. However, the new location gives the company a more “local” presence according to owner Jade Peterson. The tropical climate of New Orleans lends itself well to the “resort wear” offered by California Drawstrings – cottons, silks, linen and accessories.
Peterson describes their products as “comfortable, cool, lightweight clothes,” which are always a favorite during festival season. While the Royal Street store gets its share of visitors to the city, the new Magazine Street location is frequented mostly by locals for its mature yet artsy vibe.
After crossing over Louisiana Avenue and passing the plethora of restaurants on the next few blocks, you’ll eventually reach NOLA Couture on the river side of Magazine between Seventh and Sixth streets. NOLA Couture’s roots on Magazine began shortly after Hurricane Katrina, when the line was founded and carried by local boutiques such as Perlis and Feet First.
“Thanks to their early support, we opened our first brick-and-mortar store in the Upper Pontalba building on Jackson Square in the Fall of 2012,” says Cecile Hardy, Founder. After only a few months, the store was able to expand with a second location of its own on Magazine. The line of accessories began with neckties celebrating New Orleans’ individuality and today includes fun and vibrant bowties, belts, hats, glassware, pet collars and more.
“Our customers don’t take themselves and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. That’s why all of our products are fun, vibrant and colorful. We do, however, pride ourselves in our quality and in designing and producing almost all of our items locally in New Orleans,” says Hardy.
Located across the street from NOLA Couture is one of the first fashion boutiques to open on Magazine Street, one that will soon celebrate 30 years of business on the street. Martha Duval opened her Joan Vass clothing store in 1986, and though the business has since changed in name and ownership, Duval has been a constant, first with Joan Vass’ line and now with her own line (New Orleans Knitwear) offered through Ballin’s LTD.
“There was nothing around me – there was not much on Magazine at the time,” says Duval, who recalls being surrounded by the Salvation Army, a wholesale fabric company and a service station. Today, the 2900 block of Magazine is bustling with business.
“Magazine has morphed into an incredible shopping street that appeals to multiple generations of people. It’s very unique to other shopping places; you have a whole street to shop,” says Duval. Ballin’s LTD customer base has grown over the decades to include a mix of locals, visitors and loyal mail order customers.
Continuing down to Lower Magazine towards Jackson Avenue – before you pass the brightly colored flags or the wafting scents of donuts and bagels – you’ll arrive at one of Magazine’s youngest businesses, Peony. A whimsical shop, Peony is “full of the wish lists” of owners Jennifer Atkins and Cricket Lapeyre: gifts, jewelry, women’s clothing and a children’s department.
“We appeal to a treasure hunting clientele,” says Atkins. “Customers know they will find a dress at our shop that they are not going to find all over New Orleans.” This spring, the store is looking forward to and preparing for a busy bridal and debutante season in New Orleans.
Speaking about the street and shopping scene, Atkins calls Magazine New Orleans’ “Champs D’Elysee, Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue.” She is fond of Peony’s locale on Lower Magazine and proud that the area has maintained such significant local ownership.
Peony’s neighbor, Clover, arrived on Magazine about two years ago, and Owner Melissa Coleman has enjoyed watching the diversity of Lower Magazine continue to grow in the short time she’s been there.
“[Lower Magazine] seems like the current hotspot stretch of Magazine Street. So many new and unique businesses have opened up in our little neighborhood,” she says. According to Coleman, what makes Clover unique is its model of remaining mostly exclusive with product lines.
“We focus on clean, elegant pieces from the latest designers. Most of our designers only sell to Clover in the city. We don’t want to look like every other store out there,” says Coleman. Consequently, locals who want classic, exclusive pieces will seek out the store, and visitors will pop in from the street or discover the store from the New Orleans edition of The Scout Guide. Shoppers are ready for spring, and according to Coleman, Clover’s spring 2016 response has so far been huge.
Occupying three addresses on Lower Magazine, Trashy Diva offers a clothing/dress store, shoe store and lingerie shop all on the 2000 block of Magazine between Josephine and St. Andrew’s streets. A vintage reproduction clothing company, Trashy Diva offers designs primarily focused on a 1920s-’50s aesthetic with a little ’60s and ’70s influence as well. With store locations in both the French Quarter and on Magazine, Trashy Diva is able to provide easy access to customers all over the city. According to staff, they’re finding that a lot of visitors are grabbing the streetcar or a cab and heading to Magazine Street in addition to exploring downtown.
Due to its range of sizes (0-24) and vintage style, women of all ages seek Trashy Diva’s designs for both work and play – from sophisticated occasion dresses or vibrant sundress to separates, shoes, lingerie and accessories. The store has also become a popular spot for men shopping for their special someone.
Representing the downtown contingent of Magazine Street businesses is Haute women’s boutique, a four-year veteran of the Magazine shopping scene, which offers its own neighborhood flavor. Owner Sanja Alickovic opened the store at 725 Magazine St. and continues to watch the warehouse district grow and thrive with more restaurants, retailers and residents.
“Our local customers have been extremely supportive and loyal since Haute opened, and we couldn’t be successful without them. Being downtown, we get a good bit of visitor traffic as well,” says Alickovic. Haute aims to provide customers with a one-of-a-kind shopping experience with designs not offered at other area stores.
“We look for designers with a simple, elegant aesthetic, quality fabrics, and impeccable fit. Whether it’s a beach cover up or an evening gown, we look for standout pieces that no one else has,” says Alickovic.
Magazine Street obviously has dozens of businesses than we can’t all cover here, so we asked these vendors for some of their favorite Magazine Street destinations. Naturally for a city obsessed with food, many were favorite nearby restaurants: Joey K’s, La Petite Grocery, Juan’s Flying Burrito, Stein’s Deli, Bon Ton Café, Lily’s, Kenton’s and Shaya. Shops and studios for wellness are also popular hotspots for business owners and staff and include Reyn Studios, Raw Republic, Belladonna Day Spa and Earthsavers. For those who can’t stop shopping, whether for fashion or the home, favorites for gifts and more include the new Zele Market, Pippen Lane, Basics, Hazelnut and Ashley Longshore among others.
Pelican Coast Clothing Company 5509 Magazine St., 309-2314, PelicanCoastClothing.com • Scriptura 5423 Magazine St., 897-1555, Scriptura.com • Barre3 5235 Magazine St., 301-3082, barre3.com • Feet First 4122 Magazine St., 899-6800, FeetFirstStores.com • Art & Eyes 3708 Magazine St., 891-4494, ArtAndEyesNola.com • California Drawstrings 3650 Magazine St., 702-8515, CaliforniaDrawstrings.com • NOLA Couture 2928 Magazine St., 319-5959, NolaCouture.com • Ballin’s LTD 2917 Magazine St., Suite 105, 891-4502, NewOrleansKnitwear.com • Peony NOLA 2240 Magazine St., Suite 102, 300-7908, PeonyNola.com • Clover 2240 Magazine St., Suite 101, 344-2072, Instagram: @clover_nola • Trashy Diva 2044, 2048 & 2050 Magazine St., 299-3939, TrashyDiva.com • Haute 725 Magazine St., 522-8687 , HauteNola.com