A few weeks back I took my 18-month-old daughter on her first streetcar ride. We got off on Oak Street to poke around the shops there. A storm came up and we ducked into Haase’s Shoe Store to shop and wait out the rain.

I hadn’t been to Haase’s since I was a boy and my mom would take me there for shoes. Even then, in the late 1970s, Haase’s felt like an anachronism, with its Buster Brown helium tank and saddle bucks for tots. Oak Street was kind of run down, like Magazine used to be. Now, like Magazine, it has been glammed up with boutique shops and restaurants. Only, unlike Magazine, I’d use the word “hipsterfied” instead of “gentrified,” as Oak’s latest offerings are often retro in theme. That a store like Haase’s was nested within a clutch of retro-themed shops caught my attention.

As a trend, retro often seeks to mine the past for resale. But more recently, retro has evolved more into an attempt to mine the past to recapture some quality that suggests that the ways we used to get things done were more rewarding than the way we do those things now; It’s the retail analog to the urban farming movement. The trend is based on anecdotal evidence, such as the theory that an Underwood typewriter will last almost forever and satisfy the soul, while two years out a Dell laptop isn’t worth the cost to repair it. Today’s electronic products are disposable, while the older mechanical devices endure.

I buy into it to some degree. I get my hair cut at Aidan Gill because I love the feel of the place. I bought a few shirts with iron-on decals from Skip and Whistle, paying a lot for something out of which my daughter would swiftly grow (but black and gold owls saying “Whoo-Whoo-Whoo Dat?” I couldn’t resist).  But alongside the retro-themed shops like Skip and Whistle are places like Haase’s that have been there for generations and have already seen the retro styles sold next door come and go at least once before. These places have never tried to be anything but themselves. And in doing so, they have withstood the slow erosion of time in a way that seems truly remarkable. And I wonder how much longer they will be around – how much longer we can reasonably expect them to be.

New Orleans clings to its past in a way that seems out of step with the rest of the country. If the guiding principal of America is along the lines of “Onward and Upward”, “Go West” and “Manifest Destiny”, the guiding principal of New Orleans is along the lines of “I miss McKenzie’s buttermilk drops.” Even though we can get them at Tastee Donuts now, are they really the same?

Alongside Oak Street’s hipsterization, Haase’s remains, in spirit, unchanged. But it is not really the same in terms of how it looks and what it sells. True, the helium tank is still there, but the space is brighter and more airy than it was when I was a kid. The shoe selection has been upgraded and contemporized. Wooden toys by Melissa and Doug are now sold, the same as you would see in any progressive toy store that stands in opposition to the injection-molded ethos of Toys-R-Us. And despite these upgrades, it seemed all the more timeless to me.

Haase’s is not alone. Other places, like Le Jouet toys, come to mind. Here are old fashioned places that transcend retro, because they don’t have to reach back to recapture something that they already have. They can offer new stuff while still being true to themselves.  They are not pigeonholed or typecast, or trading on a trend.

Nothing is permanent, as Katrina and life in general shows us. But some things are less impermanent than others, like Haase’s and Le Jouet. For that I am grateful, and I am also happy that I can still buy shoes and toys for my little girl like my mom did for me.