Penn larocci is a born and raised New Orleanian. After graduating from Tulane University, she lived in NYC for nine years working in sales in marketing at an investment bank. When she missed New Orleans more than she could stand, she moved back home, met her husband and started a family. She’s now raising two rambunctious little boys and spending her free time on environmental sustainability projects.
New Orleans in the 1920’s was the “cat’s pajamas.” Yes, drinking hard liquor was frowned upon (actually illegal) due to Prohibition but the Big Easy still managed to keep things interesting. Folks from all walks of life were mixing and mingling downtown together under the guise of artistic expression. Venues like the newly relocated Le Petit Theatre and the Arts and Crafts Club in the French Quarter hosted parties, exhibits and classes where the uptown crowd brushed elbows with the bohemian set. Downtown was a place to see and be seen. It’s no surprise that around 1923, the newly renamed Roosevelt Hotel premiered the finest jazz venue in the city, the Venetian Room (now the Blue Room), and kicked off the tradition of decorating its block-long lobby for Christmas. What you may not know about the hotel today is that during the holiday season there is an entire line-up of activities. It’s a veritable one stop shop for all things Christmas. In addition to the Teddy Bear Tea for the kids and aforementioned “Waldorf Wonderland” lights on display, the Emporium Gift Shop is also a delightful diversion.
I had the privilege of chatting with Colleen Stack, the Emporium Gift Shop buyer, to hear all about the store and what to expect for the holidays.
Why is The Roosevelt Hotel synonymous with the holiday season? We do Christmas in a big way. The lights are a tradition dating back to the 1920’s and we will continue to preserve this for our hotel guests as well as the city. Locals and tourists from all over the country come to see the spectacle of over 112,000 lights, 1600 feet of garland and 4,000 glass ornaments.
What does the local shopper/visitor mean to this establishment? We know that, for a lot of New Orleans families, making the annual pilgrimage to visit the spectacular Waldorf Wonderland is a beloved holiday tradition. That means a lot to us. And as we always aim to deliver that familiar, nostalgic feeling of holiday cheer, we also want to surprise and delight with a little something extra. It might be a new twist to our LED light displays, special ornaments or pop-up concerts from school choirs performing as guests walk through the lobby.
Do you carry local brands in the store? We love to support local artists and carry pieces by Dana Manly, John Marc Anderson and Mignon Faget jewelry and glassware.
What specialty gifts items do you carry in the shop? Our annual collectible glass ornament is a big hit, as well as a bevy of other European glass blown ornaments. The giant resin gingerbread house is a favorite and of course, little indulgences like our signature robe, custom holiday scented candle and Christmas cookies make great gifts.