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The Best Way to Keep Our Community Alive Part II: Shop Local While Supporting Sustainable, Women-Owned Businesses


C’est moi, the proverbial squeaky wheel again, here to implore of you, all of you, everyone, again, to please abandon Amazon, national chains and convenience-driven services. Choose instead to keep our local merchants such as those on Magazine Street, Oak Street and the French Quarter operating and our neighborhoods alive. They desperately need us. We need community, and shopping at a local, privately-owned business, even if you are shopping online, is so much more rewarding and engaging an experience than shopping at Walmart or Walgreen’s could ever be. This is especially true if you have a sense of the person(s) behind the business.



Beth Kensel founded Nest NOLA in early 2019 as a specialty retail store on upper Magazine Street featuring a unique, carefully curated selection of nature-inspired, handmade art, jewelry, gifts, and home décor, all made with all natural, cruelty-free, eco-friendly, recycled and up-cycled materials.

“We do our part to protect the environment and support artists & craftspeople that do the same,” Kensel said.

March of this year brought a first anniversary to the thriving business. It also brought a mandatory shutdown, which crushed the small business. What was a business owner to do? Pivot.

Well, beg, and then pivot.

“We quickly applied for several grants and emergency loans designed to help small businesses survive the pandemic,” Kensel said. “When we were finally allowed to reopen, business was very, very slow and continued to be so for months. The future was just too uncertain.”

So Kensel made the fear-inducing decision to move Nest NOLA out of its brick and mortar location and into a new 100 percent online home. Her new motto was gleaned from a quote once uttered by Marilyn Monroe: “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

Nest NOLA recently became one of the first 200 out of a total of 1,000 recipients of a $5,000 grant from The Red Backpack Fund by Spanx and the Sarah Blakely Foundation. Applicants of the grant were asked a couple of important questions. If you were to receive the grant, how would you use the money? How does your business help others in the community?

“It was during the process of answering these questions that I was inspired to fine tune my focus and restructure my business plan to not only survive the pandemic, but also to help support other women-owned, preferably Louisiana-based, and always American-based small businesses in the process,” Kensel said. “We believe in working together with other small businesses during these challenging times. As with our nation, we are stronger together than we are apart.  When you support Nest NOLA, you are supporting not just one, but many other American based artists, artisans, and small businesses.”

In addition to all of the gorgeous items already on offer at Nest NOLA—including real butterfly wing jewelry – cruelty free, recycled glass night lights , real dried flower and eco-resin jewelry (comes from a tree – not plastic), recycled guitar string jewelry, and mask chains made by Kensel herself— the site is currently stocked with plenty of holiday-centric items including super-cute, best-selling, locally made, hand-painted cypress knee Santas. These are stunning, all one of a kind and numbered by the artist.

Shop Nest NOLA on their website (it just went live yesterday!), on Facebook @nestnola (where LIVE sales events will be hosted throughout the season), on Instagram @nest_nola. Contact them at info@nestnola.net or 504-835-4702.


El Guapo Bitters

After working her ass off to establish El Guapo Bitters, a New Orleans-based, Louisiana flavor-centric line of craft cocktail bitters, in this year when so many are so miserable, Christa Cotton is having a great year.

She deserves it.

Cotton recently won the 2020 Les Dames Escoffier Legacy Award for Fine Spirits and El Guapo’s Creole Orgeat Bitters recently garnered a 2020 Made in the South Award from Garden & Gun, which included a feature in the current issue of the magazine.

As CEO of El Guapo, Cotton leads overall strategy and recipe development while keeping projects and initiatives on time and under budget. Nationally, you can find El Guapo’s products – which include a variety of bitters, mixers, syrups, and gift sets— at Whole Foods, Costco, and Neiman Marcus.  Locally, El Guapo’s sexy and sensational products are available in many places around town. Check out the website (you can buy there, too) for a list of places here you can find El Guapo. There are a slew of cool cocktail recipes there, too.


Things to Do:

Tonight at 6 p.m. the Preservation Resource Center will host a free virtual program stressing the importance of shopping local this holiday season. The program will feature a panel of Magazine Street merchants and business owners discussing the challenges of the pandemic and how they are adapting. The panel discussion is a digital companion to the November issue of Preservation in Print magazine, which focused on the challenges of the pandemic and the importance of the Magazine Street historic commercial corridor to the city. You can read the story here.

On Saturday from 12- 1:30 p.m., the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE) will host a festive , socially distanced, pizza-making demonstration and tasting at the fantastic outdoor kitchen within City Park’s beautiful Botanical Garden. Pizzas of varying styles will be offered., all of them fired in the Garden’s pizza oven will be created by local pop-ups dough-town (sic), Nola Love Pizza, and more. Several Italian varietals by Neat Wines will be paired with each pizza maker’s demo and offerings. Tickets are available here.


Have a great weekend, everyone. Keep it local. Support our people. We need each another.



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