Sutton’s Gift Shops
Image provided by Charles L Franck / Franck-Bertacci Photographers Collection, The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1979.325.4979

The original location of Sutton’s Fairyland at 810 Canal St. in 1955. Later that same year, it made a short move across the street to 829 Canal St.

The Sutton name has a long history of gift stores in the Greater New Orleans area. Joseph M. Sutton moved to New Orleans from Syria in 1913, and opened his first novelty gift shop in 1915. By 1934, Sutton’s Gift Shops had proven to be an immensely successful venture, with three locations in downtown New Orleans and more to come in the next few years, including in both the Roosevelt/Fairmont and Monteleone Hotels. 

In August of 1936, Sutton leased the 4-story building at 810 Canal St. to operate as his fourth shop. But in the summer of 1945, he turned the storefront over to his son, Meyer “Mike” Sutton, who reconfigured the store and called it Sutton’s Fairyland, which specialized in home furnishings, gifts, and personal items at low prices. Children’s clothing and gifts were a big focus of the Fairyland shopping experience. Newspaper ads often promoted kids’ party clothes for the Easter and Christmas holidays, as well as clown and bunny Carnival costumes in sizes 0-6.

The 1950s saw big advancements for Fairyland as new locations opened: one in the brand new Crescent Air-Line shopping center in 1957, followed by another in the Westside shopping center in 1958 that provided an in-house consultant for children’s clothing. Two years later, they opened their largest location in the new Lakeside Shopping Center, also featuring a strong emphasis on children’s clothing. 

All of the Sutton’s shops were known for their gifts from around the world and their linens, especially their intricately embroidered handkerchiefs. Their Canal Street window displays were also legendary, with large crepe paper eggs filled with costumed rabbits to mark Easter, and an 8-foot-tall  laughing, moving Santa Claus (sound effects provided by a vinyl record of laughter playing nearby) at Christmas.

The Fairyland franchise maintained many of its storefronts through the 1960s, but the first Sutton’s Fairyland on Canal St. also happened to be its last, closing in 1974. The last Sutton’s Gift Shop, operating in the Monteleone Hotel, closed in 1993. While no more stores would bear the Sutton name, Mike Sutton continued to operate his Royal Street gift and jewelry store Cynthia et Cie until his retirement in 1999. And even today, you will find a third-generation Sutton in the French Quarter; Joseph’s grandson and Mike’s son, Joey, owns the Vintage 329 shop on Royal Street.