Greater New Orleans’ citizens are arguably the most flexible people in the country. We take turns with our fellow drivers on narrow cobblestone streets, we know the secret route to get to our house during parade season, and boil water advisories keep us on our toes. These are just a few quirks that make us curious to outsiders and unite us as New Orleanians.
Another reason for us to band together is coming to a road near you! We will be facing drainage system improvements and road construction for the next five years. Funds from FEMA as well as our Department of Public Works have been designated. Projects have been mapped through 2019, and we need to stay flexible (as we do) in the name of long-term infrastructure improvements!
Along with those experiencing personal inconveniences and dissatisfactions, our local businesses on these routes are taking a hard economic hit. New Orleans businesses need to feel our support and the impact of local dollars now at this critical time of business disruption because they are the backbone of our city’s culture, economy and character.
The Shopkeeper Stories series shares the vision and personality of New Orleans business owners. We hope you are inspired and continue to shop small and shop local—even if it takes a little extra time!
Shopkeeper: Desiree Petitbon
Basics Underneath Fine Lingerie and Basics Swim & Gym
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
We opened Basics in 1999 after a trip that our co-founder, Juliet, and I took with her Dad to Paris. We fell in love with lingerie and those beautiful little shops where they would have just a half dozen exquisite silk chemises hanging on a rack perfectly spaced apart! We had no idea what we were getting into. The new store, Swim & Gym, is a little over a year old. We had always dabbled in swimwear and we kept ordering more and more every year so when a location became available, we jumped on it!
What makes NOLA businesses so special?
Most of them are locally owned. People from New Orleans are interesting and fun. They’re special. I can’t imagine not living here. I love it here. I like the surge of new people moving here. It’s so special to be from a place that people admire and want to live in. Magazine Street is not strip mall city–it’s unique.
If your shop was a cocktail, what would it be?
Describe your business in a few words.
Positive. Top quality. When a box comes in, we all look at it, we all try it on. Everyone is a different shape and size and we ask, “does this fit right? What’s the rise like? Do you like the fabric?” We quality control everything in the shop and everyone is involved.
We believe in promoting positive self-image. We want women and girls to feel good about themselves and their bodies.
What’s your favorite local biz on Magazine Street?
Earthsavers for manicures and I love Swap for clothes. Love La Petite Grocery and Coquette!
Will you share your secret coffee spot?
First Cup Cafe on Calhoun St. This sweet guy named Moe owns it and it’s the best cup of coffee in the city!
What advice would you give a budding business owner?
If we’d known the reality of what it was going to be like, we probably wouldn’t have done it! So my advice is to just do it and decide that you don’t know everything. We made a whole bunch of money and lost a whole bunch of money before we got on a the right track for incremental growth. The first couple of years we had extreme highs and very low lows. But we had a great idea, there was a need.
There was no lingerie shop on Magazine Street. But we definitely made some whackadoodle decisions by buying too much inventory! Neither of us had any background in retail—we were both graphic designers. Now we have a business consultant and Peggy Gundlach, our general manager, has a background in retail. My advice is to ask for help! Seek out people who know more than you and ask them questions.
The Shopkeeper Stories are brought to you by StayLocal, the Greater New Orleans independent business alliance, in partnership with Uptown Messenger. This new series runs every first and third Tuesday of the month. StayLocal is devoted to raising the visibility and viability of locally-owned businesses across New Orleans through marketing, advocacy, and education. Learn about their work or become a member at www.staylocal.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.