The Building is a 3-floor performance venue, art gallery, and event space. An undertaking of Christian and Connie Labat, the project will be the fruition of the couple’s dream to support the social and economic revitalization of Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, while maintaining the unique aesthetic and character of days gone by.
Locally owned businesses infuse New Orleans neighborhoods with their unique character, and are a big part of why we want to live, work, eat and shop here. The Shopkeeper Stories series shares the vision and personality of New Orleans business owners.
Name Christian & Connie Labat
Venue The Building @ 1427 OC Haley
Since Property acquired in 2001 / Operating since 2014
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
The spark was ignited by our affinity and enjoyment of the arts. Early in our relationship, we realized that we shared this interest and attended and participated in many cultural events. Shortly after our marriage in the early 90’s, we came up with the idea of starting an arts venue. Around the same time, we began to develop an interest in—and a desire to support the revitalization of—OC Haley Blvd. We both have positive childhood memories of Dryades Street, and our understanding of the history of the street motivated us. In sum, starting our business is the result of our appreciation of the arts and the respect we have for the history & culture of Dryades Street.
What makes New Orleans businesses so special?
Just as native New Orleanians make the city special, it’s native New Orleanians—those who’ve built and operate their own businesses—who make those businesses special.
Who are your customers?
Our customers are across the board, from millennials to boomers, and older folks. We welcome everyone. They all seem to have been drawn to us because of our location—what The Building is physically and aesthetically, and how it feels. They desire and appreciate the authenticity of an old New Orleans setting, compared to a typical modern setting.
If your shop was a cocktail, what would it be?
Southern Comfort, straight. But if you insist on a cocktail, we’ll put that in a Mint Julep.
Describe your business in a few words.
An eclectic and sophisticated venue and gallery for music, art, and events.
How do you define success in your business?
At the end of the day, every business wants financial success. We want that, too. Success for us, however, is also equal parts of our customers and clients being satisfied and our ability to contribute to the betterment of our community.
What are your current and upcoming goals for your business?
To support our artists and continue to grow. We’re called The Building for different reasons. The two upper floors that we plan to build and incorporate will offer additional space for events and activities. We want to continue to build our services, dedication to our customers, and partnerships with the artists we support and who support us. Our goal is to strengthen our commitment to our community and visitors, as well as provide a quality and enjoyable experience.
What’s your favorite local biz in your area?
Zeitgeist, because it’s unique and it’s arts-related. Rene has been doing his thing for a long time, and apparently on his own terms. We admire that.
Will you share your secret lunch or dinner spot?
Second to my Mom’s house would probably be Taqueria Corona. We’ve gone consistently over the years, and have always enjoyed it. It’s simple, but satisfying.
What advice would you give a budding business owner?
Prayer is important and patience is a virtue. Hold on to your dream, and stay focused. Think creatively, and try to do something—no matter how small—to set yourself apart from others. And always try to do your best.
While drainage system improvements and road construction make “shopping local” a bit more challenging in the short term, the critical improvements mean our city will be safer and stronger for generations to come. We hope you are inspired and continue to shop small and shop local—even if it takes a little extra time!
The Shopkeeper Stories are brought to you by StayLocal, the Greater New Orleans independent business alliance, in partnership with Uptown Messenger. Learn about their work or become a member at www.staylocal.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.