By Rudy Turner
Historically, New Orleans is a city rich in cultural influences from, and major ancestral family ties to: France, Africa, Spain, Italy, Ireland and the Caribbean Islands.
These influences are embraced and are colorfully evident in our speech, laws, food, architecture, attitudes, religions and general ways of living and conducting business.
In addition, our cultural influences have helped to create and foster a great cultural diversity among our small businesses. In our post-Katrina environment, our small business cultural diversity gumbo is blossoming. A perfect example is the growth of culturally diverse businesses along Magazine Street, and in particular, the 3700 block of Magazine Street, between Napoleon and Louisiana Avenues.
The people and the eleven businesses that make up this block feature or have cultural ties to 24 different countries. Within this one block, you can find antique furniture crafted in China, Tibet, Mongolia, France, Sweden and Italy; jewelry handmade in Indonesia, India, Nepal, Canada and the USA; linens woven in Italy, Portugal and Turkey; glassware hand blown in Hungary; custom bamboo window treatments made in Mexico; and clothes sewn in Holland.
You can interact with immigrant merchants from Iraq, Columbia, Egypt and Palestine, or chat with longtime New Orleans locals. Caribbean Islands influenced food is available as well as healthy body and mind practices from Germany, India and Thailand.
Donald St. Pierre, owner of Silk Road Collection, states: “We travel to China to hand select the antique pieces of furniture we offer for sale, because we understand that we are not just supplying our customer with a piece of furniture. We understand that we are linking them to the past, to China, and to the rich Chinese culture. The greatest majority of people who come into our shop, shop via the Internet, and who purchase are people who have traveled to the Far East, or whose childhood was enriched by tales of the Far East or who desire to travel.”
Six of these eleven businesses began their operations after the storm. In addition to opening new businesses and employing more locals, each of their buildings have recently been upgraded and renovated. If this one block along Magazine Street is a microcosm of the city in general, this faith in New Orleans and its business activity bodes well for all of us.
Angelique Baby Fashions is one of the stores that chose to open after the storm and chose Magazine Street as its location. Coleen Eastman and Angelique Short, owners, said they had wanted to expand and diversify their business already located on Maple Street and they thought that after the storm was the perfect time. “We wanted to show that New Orleans is great, and has the potential to be a great place to do business,” says Eastman. “We wanted to locate on Magazine Street because it is so popular with both locals and tourists alike – it’s a destination for both groups.”
Diversification is not limited to cultures among these businesses. These businesses that are offering products for sale are all utilizing the Internet and e-commerce. This expanded market reach increases the sales potential for these businesses and the city, and compliments the local and visitor customer sales.
Katy Beh Jewelry had an e-commerce website operational before the storm. This diversification allowed her business to continue making sales even when her Magazine Street gallery was not yet able to reopen.
No longer are these businesses just waiting for locals and tourists to walk past their front door. The Internet allows these small businesses to “speak” directly to their customers worldwide whenever they are offering specials, have a new shipment or having a sale. Likewise, the Internet customer has the luxury to shop whenever is convenient to them; they are not limited to shop hours of 10 am - 5 pm anymore.
Magazine Street has successfully passed the test of time by continuing to improve and build on its successes and its diversification. In 1964, Mr. Jules Edwards moved his shoe and leather repair business from LaSalle Street downtown to Magazine Street. He says he believed then that the street would become a focal point for shopping and services in the years to come. He was right. Today, Mr. Edwards is the venerable merchant of Magazine Street and still believes that Magazine Street is improving and diversifying every day.
Listed below are the eleven businesses of the 3700 block of Magazine Street:
BARU BISTRO & TAPAS RESTAURANT
3700 Magazine Street
Latin Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico and Cuba influence their tapas menu. David Mantilla, owner, and Edgar Caro, owner and chef, are of Columbian descent.
Opened in April 2007
EDWARDS SHOE REPAIR
3706 Magazine Street
African-American owner of shoe and leather repair shop. The “shoe art” advertising displays that adorn the outside of his shop blend biblical sayings with shoe repair. People from around the world have photographed these displays, and they and Mr. Edwards have been the subject of many international documentaries.
Jules Edwards, owner
KATY BEH JEWELRY
3708 Magazine Street
Featuring 30+ contemporary jewelry artisans from around the USA and Canada.
Katy Beh, owner
Opened in 1998
SILK ROAD COLLECTION
3714 Magazine Street
Hand-selected Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian antique furniture from the Ching Dynasty, interior accessories from China, India and Nepal, and Asian-inspired artwork.
Donald St. Pierre and Robert H. Turner, owners
Opened in 1999
JETCO GAS & CONVENIENCE STORE
3720 Magazine Street
Supplying fuel for the car and the body. Abaas al Sheen, owner, is of Iraqi descent; his employees are from Palestine and Egypt.
Opened in 1992
3701A Magazine Street
Celebrates the art and architecture of New Orleans through jewelry and gifts that are handmade in Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia and India.
Jann Fenner, owner
Opened in May 2006
3701 Magazine Street
Offering Pilates classes (a German concept), massages from a Thai masseur, yoga and mediation from an Indian practitioner, and acupuncture featuring Mr. Jin Wu, a Chinese acupuncturist on staff.
Erin Romney, owner
Opened in Dec 2006
HESTIA, LUXURY in LINENS & SHADING PLACES
3713 Magazine Street
Luxury cotton and silk linens for your bed and bath from Italy, Turkey and Portugal, glassware from Hungry and custom window treatments from Mexico.
Jenny Mutter and Jennifer Cherry, owners
Opened in July 2007
ANGELIQUE BABY FASHIONS
3715 Magazine Street
Stylish, quality maternity and children’s apparel. Exclusive New Orleans distributor of Oilily, a Dutch children’s apparel brand, and representative of other brands from Canada and Holland.
Coleen Eastman and Angelique Short, owners
Opened in August 2006
3727 Magazine Street
Hand-selected French, Italian and Swedish furniture and accessories from the 1800s and 1900s.
Gay Wirth, owner
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