NEW ORLEANS HOMES & LIFESTYLES: The Royal Touch

Keil’s Antiques is known for its variety of English and French antiques.


Theshops along historic Royal Street, an enchanted vision of French andSpanish architecture carefully preserved for centuries, have longcaptivated local antique and fine collectible enthusiasts, as well asconnoisseurs from across the globe.

This shopping destinationhas garnered quite the reputation for being the spot to track down rareand much sought after items from Europe. Many antiques stores have beenin existence for more than 100 years, and the buildings have just asmuch history as the ancient objects they accommodate. The dozen or soantique dealers who call Royal Street home are proud to be among atight knit bunch of specialty shop owners who masterfully and elegantlybalance competition and camaraderie.

Keil’s Antiques is known for its variety of English and French antiques.

Atestament to this relationship: In the chaotic days following HurricaneKatrina, Andree Moss of Keil’s Antiques noticed while inspecting herfamily-owned business that the wind had blown off the door to theFrench Antique Shop. In spite of the trying circumstances, Andree Mossdidn’t hesitate to have relatives board up the store, recalls NicoleGranet Friedlander, who co-owns the store along with brother HenryGranet and her son, Marc Friedlander. French Antiques is renowned forits chandeliers and 18th- and 19th-century Continental antiques.

“Wehave a natural rivalry, yet that’s an example of the camaraderie wehave for each other,” says Friedlander of the touching account. “Thatjust reinforces the way we feel about the French Quarter and thedealers here. We would have done the same thing.”

Peter Moss, whose mother is Andree Moss, says, “Although we compete for business, each shop has a different flavor to it.”

FormalEnglish and French furniture is the niche at Keil’s Antiques, which wasestablished in 1899, while Limoges boxes and a range of collectiblesfrom rare walking sticks to small antiques are the rage at BrassMonkey. Those interested in vintage timepieces and wedding bands turnto Hoover Watches & Jewels.

James H. Cohen and Sons is ahaunt for numismatists, and some of the offerings include Roman andGreek coins dating back to 336 B.C. Coins aside, the store also sellsantique weapons, such as firearms from the Civil War era, and politicalephemera.

All in the Family
It’sa family affair on Royal Street with many of the same familiesoperating antique shops at the same French Quarter locations spanningthree to four generations.

Barry Cohen represents the fifthgeneration to run the family business located in the same Royal Streetshop established in 1898 by great-great-grandfather William Feldman.Growing up, Cohen’s playground was the oldest and largest coin store inNew Orleans—right in the center of a worldwide antiques market.

“Whilewe are all competitive, we are still friendly. All the shop owners knoweach other,” Cohen says as he tells the story of how hisgreat-great-grandfather Feldman, an Hungarian immigrant, got his startpushing a cart up and down Royal Street re-stuffing feather beds andrepairing furniture.

Not only do the merchants themselves hailfrom traditions steeped in the antiques trade—with relatives runningshops on Royal Street—but, in addition, generations of families havealso earned a living working there.

The King James I steeple cup at M.S. Rau Antiques.
Photograph courtesy of M.S. Rau Antiques

BennyHensley of New Orleans, who passed away shortly after Katrina, workedas a porter at Keil’s Antiques for 78 years and his grandfather workedfor Hermina Keil, who founded the shop and counted among her customersPresidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Other Keil employeeshave worked at the store for stints as long as 47 years.

“Thisis a trusted family business,” Peter Moss says. “We received thousandsof calls after the storm from people all over the world checking on us.”

JamieDoerr of M.S. Rau Antiques, established in 1912, says, “It’s importantto build trusting relationships with customers whether they are buyinga small item or spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Andlike most Royal Street purveyors, M.S. Rau has a rich family tradition.Run by third generation dealers, William and Jack Rau, the25,000-square-foot store is a French Quarter landmark with yearly salesin excess of $20 million.

M.S. Rau, famous for rare andimportant American, French and English furniture, boasts museum-qualitypieces and one-of-a-kind items. An extraordinary painting by PierreAuguste Renoir was recently sold and the store currently has asilver-steeple cup owned by King James I, dating back to 1616.

“Itry to offer our clients something a little different, something thatgets them excited about collecting,” William Rau explains. “Forexample, not many people will ever own the world’s finest bell clock ora Rodin sculpture or a Fabérge walking stick or what many believe to bethe defining piece of 19th-century carved furniture or a stained glasslamp by Tiffany. Those are the kinds of things I look for, and [becauseof that] our clients keep coming back.” 

Royal Street Antiques Stores
Brass Monkey 407 Royal St., 561-0688
James H. Cohen and Sons 437 Royal St., 522-3305
French Antique Shop 225 Royal St., 524-9861
Harris Antiques 233 Royal St., 523-1605
Hoover Watches & Jewels 301 Royal St., 522-7289
Keil’s Antiques 325 Royal St., 522-4552
Ida Manheim Antiques 409 Royal St., 620-4114
Moss Antiques 411 Royal St., 522-3981
M.S. Rau Antiques 630 Royal St., 523-5660
Robinson’s Antiques 329 Royal St., 523-6683
Rothschild’s Antiques 321 Royal St., 523-2281
Royal Antiques 307-309 Royal St., 524-7033
Jack Sutton Antiques 315 Royal St., 522-0555
The Collector 407 Royal St., 525-2186
Waldhorn & Adler 343 Royal St., 581-6379

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