Nov 142012

The Gracious Advocate. (photo by Jean-Paul Villere for

Jean-Paul Villere

I took some time out this past weekend to breeze on over to one of the city’s most recent enhancements in diurnal sustenance offerings in a swank little spot known as Gracious and happened upon a happy counterpart, a vending machine for The Advocate.  This was my first visit to Gracious so I was sort of taking it all in and frankly didn’t notice the red vending machine until I departed, but that’s when it hit me.  The new New Orleans is frankly a lot like the oldNew Orleans, and while with certainty no one’s zipping around in a shiny, new Oldsmobile picking up a copy of the Saturday Times-Picayune and prussians from La Bonnbonniere, they’re still likely driving (something) and more than able to equivalently nourish their mind and their soul, all locally sourced.  And thank goodness!

From many moons ago my retail background in the cafe industry I can easily say for well over a decade I chose to work mostly opening shifts.  Up to my elbows each morning in the day’s daily paper and freshly delivered local pastry fare, my observations of the average New Orleanian’s routine of consumption ran the gamut.  And while yes one day I may write a book about these days, for now let’s explore how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

As mentioned I’m an early bird, so I arrived at Gracious some 15 minutes before they opened.  Not unlike the regulars I used to serve way back when, my presence possessed a level of purpose and patience.  Being the first car clearly awaiting their open, I easily made note of the others that quickly queued near me.  One, then another, and another, and even more.  I got anxious.  I mean, I was here first; I didn’t want to be served last.  So with a minute or two before opening I followed the most-recent-to-arrive-but-laughably-first-in-line to wait but a few seconds as the bakery welcomed its growing audience for its day of business.  The doors opened!

Turns out the staff were unfortunately experiencing a bit of technical difficulty, with their point-of-sale system having gone offline.  This can be an inconvenient and tough spot for an opening crew, like losing power or water pressure.  Often you have a captive, waiting and at times itchy audience when things go south, but again this was Saturday so no one was running late to a meeting or what have you.  Still you want the show to go on, but you have to go to plan B and sometimes C.  Fortunately I had a little cash on me so while I was planning on buying a good dozen items, I settled on four as I also wanted to tip.  Otherwise I would have flexed the plastic and indulged.  Meh, next time.

Upon my exit with my purchases The Advocate vending machine sort of jumped out at me if only because it stands alone, a solitary figure in a field of bright if not freshly poured sidewalk.  And then my ton of bricks moment.  It’s 2012.  I had just bought a fresh, local breakfast, and if I wanted I could pick up a copy of a fresh, local-ish day’s paper too.  So while a time warp didn’t zap me back to the early 90s when a zauner kipfel with a robust reading of the real estate transfers might be in order, I also didn’t have a generic American morning many of us have had to endure in a continental breakfast and slick copy of USA Today (which mind you would’ve been Friday’s copy because they don’t publish on weekends).

Tranquility overcame me.  Because while this was decidedly not a 20th century New Orleans morning I had cut my teeth on, everything seems in its right place in the 21st century.  Pastries, newspapers, and all.

Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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