Parcels & Post on Magazine Street is celebrating its 10th anniversary and Carnival in a big way. It will host one of the “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” float installations sponsored by the Krewe of Red Beans, to be unveiled in February. Parcels & Post is also helping us celebrate Carnival by offering 20% off the regular shipping price for king cakes. They ship them all over the world. Owner Heidi Hammond and her husband moved to New Orleans in 2007.
Local roaster and coffee aficionado Kevin Pedeaux didn’t intend to open his Uptown coffee house, CR Coffee Shop, a few months before a pandemic hit. However, that’s exactly what happened after his grand opening in October 2019. A year later, it was a success story, bucking a lamentable trend that has seen established local coffee houses — like Café Luna and Hey! Café & Coffee Roastery — shutter along the Magazine Street corridor. Despite the unexpected trajectory of 2020 and City Hall’s ever-evolving COVID-19 decisions, the coffee shop in a white shotgun house, down the block from Magazine Street’s Ace Hardware and cater-corner to Lilette, has steadfastly remained open.
No parades will be gracing Magazine Street in the Mardi Gras season that begins Wednesday, but the Uptown corridor will still have a place of honor during Carnival 2021. Magazine Street will be the only place to purchase merchandise for the Krewe of Red Beans’ “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” project, the krewe announced. “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” is an effort to get the laid-off Mardi Gras artists back to work while brightening the season for all New Orleanians. As an extension of this initiative, the krewe has partnered with the Magazine Street Merchants Association to sell special products that celebrate its “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” project. Krewe merchandise for sale includes T-shirts, hoodies and flags that relate to the campaign.
The owner of Lilly’s Café, a popular Vietnamese restaurant in the Lower Garden District, is planning to open a second Lilly’s farther up Magazine Street. Lilly Vuong, who runs the 8-year-old restaurant with family members, told Garden District neighbors in a Neighborhood Participation Project letter that she recently purchased the cottage at 3329 Magazine St. to open a second Vietnamese restaurant. Before that can happen, she needs approval from the City Planning Commission and the City Council; a restaurant is only allowed as a conditional use in the district. A hearing is on the Planning Commission’s Jan.
The WRBH 88.3 FM studios, a landmark on the corner of Magazine and Foucher streets, has a distinctive spot in the broadcasting world. It is the nation’s only full-time FM reading radio service and one of only three such stations in the world, according to its website.
WRBH, also known as “Reading Radio,” turns the printed word into the spoken word so that vision-impaired people can receive the same ease of access to current information as their sighted peers.
Two other stations share that mission: Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network, a sideband service not on the FM dial, and Vision Australia Radio Network. The latter is a network of eight radio stations whose programming and structure are similar to WRBH but do not operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Australian group recently reached out to WRBH to share information, ideas and forge a relationship. The target audience for Reading Radio includes the blind and illiterate, as well as individuals who are unable to read due to illness, spinal cord injuries, eye muscle damage, learning disabilities, lack of access to print media and loss of vision due to age.
Jimmy Cho, the chef and owner of the Cho Thai — a recent addition to Magazine Street in the Irish Channel — has operated the West Bank favorite Banana Blossom since 2009. One of the repeat customers at that Thai fusion restaurant happened to be a partner at BRG Hospitality, the rebranded John Besh group whose holdings include August, Pizza Domenica and Shaya. He liked the food at Banana Blossom so much he approached Cho joining the BRG’s restaurants. Cho signed a contract with BRG in November 2019, and the redesign of the interior space at 3218 Magazine St. was set to begin in the new year.
As Nathan Lott, the Preservation Resource Center’s policy and research director and advocacy coordinator, put it: Magazine Street — with its architecture, its history and its flock of local business — is a microcosm of New Orleans, one that has acutely felt the city’s economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic. The time from Christmas to Mardi Gras is usually a boon for these businesses. The upcoming holiday season is seen as crucial to whether or not many of Magazine Street’s businesses survive. On Thursday, the PRC hosted an online panel of five Magazine Street merchants to discuss the future of the beloved corridor. The panel consisted of Dirty Coast owner Blake Haney, Perlis Clothing owner David Perlis, West London Boutique owner Mariah Walton Bencik, Guy Williams of Gulf Coast Bank, and Susan Brooks, the new owner of Club Ms. Mae’s.
From its beginnings as a gas station and a camelback shotgun double, the sleek mid-century modern building at 3701 Magazine St. was created by architect Nathaniel “Buster” Curtis. Curtis had been a principal in the firm of Curtis & Davis Architects, best known for designing the Superdome and the Rivergate. This piece of history is now for sale and housing two retail pop-ups — in a flurry of them these days — offering items shoppers are unlikely to find elsewhere in New Orleans. You would have to go to places like New York or Paris to find the Turkish textile art and clothing at Elysian and the textile home décor selections at Meet Me in Venice.
Things got off to a very confusing start in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic for Tal Sharon. His restaurant, Tal’s Hummus, on the corner of Magazine and Bordeaux, specializes in Israeli street food, and like other business, it went through a period of turmoil. After the pandemic hit, things were unclear from all perspectives – from the supply chain to the regulations to the customers. And then there was the instituting of all the protective equipment and protocols to keep both employees and the public safe. “After two or three weeks, things normalized to the point that we were able to at least survive – to keep our doors open and keep our employees,” said chef and owner Sharon (pronounced Sharr-rhone).
Resilient Magazine Street merchants like Juliet Hainkel Holton and Desiree Petitbon are making final preparations for reopening their two shuttered shops on Saturday (May 15). The co-owners of the trendy boutiques Basics Underneath and Basics Swim & Gym, 5513-15 Magazine St., Holton and Petitbon were inspired to tiptoe into retail 21 years ago after a fateful trip to France. They realized a customer base existed Uptown for properly fitted foundation garments that are popular during the Mardi Gras season as well as for weddings and other special events throughout the year. What began as a fun little sideline blossomed into their main job. Through hard work and dedication, the two single moms steadily built a successful business that brought in more than $1 million annually until COVID-19.