Businesswoman Katherine Hutton is the proud owner of Open Hands located in Central City. Her business offers delicious food and a place to spark up meaningful conversation. Katherine is known for her supper plates and signature crawfish sauce. To keep cool on sunny New Orleans days, she even serves up snoballs. Everyone is treated like family at Open Hands.
Shopkeeper: Katherine Hutton
Shop: Open Hands Cafe
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
I opened the shop about three and a half years ago, but I’ve actually been in business forever, even before Hurricane Katrina.I first started cooking out of my home selling basic snacks when my children were at a young age. As a single mother, working from home allowed me to make some money and be present in my baby’s life.
I started doing the entrepreneurial thing after Hurricane Katrina. I spent some time at GoodWork Network, and at first, I just wanted to do simple snoballs. One thing led to another, and I started cooking supper plates out of my home. The supper plate is part of New Orleans culture. Here, we do fundraisers, have celebrations, and come together around supper plates. We got the mac n’ cheese, the fried fish, the peas, the potato salad, and the bread – that’s the basic setup.
What makes New Orleans businesses so special?
The uniqueness that the community brings. For the most part, I’m supported by my community. The people that I see every day are the people that live here. Restaurants are a part of communities in New Orleans, and Central City is the community I grew up in. My neighbors see me now, and they say, “Katharine’s doing it.”
Who are your ideal customers?
Everybody is my ideal customer. I like meeting new people; it’s good for me. I love my babies, and when I say my babies, I mean my youth in the community. When they come up in here, they bring something special and different. I think because I am a mother with children ranging from 3 to 22 and I’m a grandmother, being able to communicate with these kids means a lot to me. I am always asking the youth, “What’s going on?” to give them a sense that somebody cares about them.
If your shop was a cocktail, what kind would it be?
It would be a smooth taste of Bailey’s. When people come in here, they get the effortless mix of who we are and how we fit into the community. They get the feeling they can call this place home.
Describe your business in a few words.
My business is a loving, fun, and real environment. When you walk in the door, everyone feels the love.
How do you define “success” in your business?
Success to me right now is being able to have a young person come into the shop and learn something. I have lived in the Central City neighborhood my whole life, and I understand the needs of the young people in our community today. When I was younger, I wanted to make money and provide for my success. I want to show young people what entrepreneurship looks like, and I hope to start youth entrepreneurship training. Just giving them the tools and being a role model for what work ethics look like can make a difference.
What are your current or upcoming goals for your business and/or community?
You know I make some really good crawfish sauce! I plan to package my crawfish sauce and have it on the shelf. I want to be able to say that this is something I did. I want to have a legacy for my kids so that when they are grown, they will be able to see what their momma did.
Will you share your favorite local lunch or dinner spot?
My favorite is Dunbar’s Famous Creole Cuisine. I’ve loved it since I was little. The liver and grits are delicious! I also really like Boswell’s Jamaican Grill and Neyow’s Creole Café.
What advice would you give to a new business owner?
What you do is going to be unique to your situation, and it depends on how much you want to get out of your business. For me, I wanted to open my own business in this community. Business is not just for a certain class of people. You got to have the love, drive, and passion for what you want to do. If you are doing it just for money, it won’t work. You have to have a love for people. Now if your business has to deal with construction, stick in there as long as you can!
Open Hands Cafe
3328 Lasalle Street, NOLA, 70115
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.