Vive la Différence

The old Ursuline Convent building in the French Quarter is a prime example of eighteenth century French construction: massive wooden roof beams, a perfectly made staircase.

“That’s what I was trained for,” admitted Julien Worms, French native and owner of Picardie Timber Frame and Millwork. “I went to school for ten years in France, in a program based on timber framing.” When his South Carolina-born wife got a job in New Orleans, he decided to locate his business here.

Picardie Timber Frame, 2375 Tchoupitoulas, is one of the many French businesses in the city. There are also French corporations: TransDev, which operates the RTA streetcars and busses, and Sodexo, which operates Tulane’s and other universities’ food services.  

No matter their size, all local companies with a French allegiance are welcomed as members of the French American Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Coast Chapter. Under executive director Loretta Krasnow, the FACC, one of 19 chapters in the United States, hosts events for members and promotes trade missions to and from France.  

Official French involvement in New Orleans is thriving. French Consul Grégor Trumel lives here with his wife and family and maintains an office. French companies donated over $22 million for rebuilding after Katrina, and the French government has donated over $1 million to Louisiana schools. New Orleans kids can go to school in French at five public charter schools. Three offer a French Ministry of Education program, Ecole Bilingue, Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans and Audubon Charter School, and two offer a French immersion program, International School of Louisiana and Edward Hynes Charter School.

Although she once walked as a model for the House of Chanel in France, FACC member Kyly Sicher Larriviere went through a career as a nurse coordinating trials of cancer drugs before marrying Dr. Daniel Larriviere, moving to New Orleans, and becoming mother to twins now attending a French school. Her next career move? Opening a French candy store. Proud of her French heritage, she was inspired by a family visit to France and the chance reading of an article on French artisanal candy. “Candy makes you feel safe, and playful. Somehow I knew that I would like to relate to people in that way,” she said.

The La Riviere Confiserie, 3719 Magazine St., refers to “the river.” “We have our river here and the candies come to us down the rivers of France,” she explained. As small candy companies negotiate food import rules, more brands are offered, and other French goods, Gien Faience dishes and French toys will be on the shelves.

La Riviere Confiserie also boasts a pop-up crépe maker, Séverine Cholet, a native of France who trained at the Ecole des Maitre Crêpier and the Crêperie Larozell in Rennes. She has her own “bilig” from Brittany on which she makes her sweet crépes and savory galettes treats. The galettes are made with Treblec buckwheat flour from Brittany.

The French Library, 3811 Magazine St., keeps French literature and music alive. “It’s amazing to walk in and hear these children playing their ukuleles and singing La Vie En Rose,” owner Katrina Greer said. The ukulele classes are only one of many things going on at the bookstore, under the careful watch of Greer, an FACC member, and her staff of seven native French speakers. “We are evolving a lifestyle brand,” she said.

Born in Trinidad and raised in Canada, she came to New Orleans when husband Jabari Greer joined the New Orleans Saints. After his retirement, they stayed here and have children attending a French school. It was the school that led to the business. “I had to keep ordering French books for them, and I saw there was a market for that here,” Greer remembered.

Apparently, that love for things French is still strong in the city – although the last time New Orleans was French was briefly back in 1803!


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