Tag Archives: arts

Treasure Trove: Renaissance Interiors

Written by: Simonette Berry

It’s hard to let go of that gorgeous antique writing desk or second set of china that you simply have no room for anymore, but at Renaissance Interiors, your piece will be in good hands. Renaissance Interiors of Metairie has become the leading high-end consignment shop in the South, offering quality furniture, art, silver, china, and collectibles. They accept consignment from individuals and businesses within a 200-mile radius of New Orleans. If you don’t want to make the drive yourself, take advantage of their pick-up, delivery, and shipping services.

With an 18,000-foot showroom and a steady flow of traffic, you can’t go wrong putting your quality consignments with the Mann family. Larry, Dennis, and Sibel Mann discovered their niche in New Orleans in 2002 and have grown quickly, expanding their floor space and services with each location. “As the years went by, the variety and quality of the pieces and the number of customers grew rapidly. Now we have approximately 2,000 customers passing through the store each week,” says Sibel Mann.

“Whether your furniture is antique, nearly new, or in between, we’ll do a great job of getting it out the door and getting a good price for it. We specialize in selling small items such as china, jewelry, silver, household decorations, art, collectibles, and mirrors,” she says. Renaissance also accepts consignments from closing stores and offers pick-up service anywhere in the New Orleans metro area.

The Manns run a hands-on family business. At least one of the three owners is usually in the store, and they are passionate and knowledgeable about what they sell. “We specialize in the sale of antiques, gently used high-quality furniture, antique oil paintings, silver, china, jewelry and specialty items. We recently sold an 1835, six-pound mountain howitzer cannon; two antique barber chairs; a French bicycle from 1920; and a pair of handmade, custom stained glass doors from the 1920s. We also sell antique doors, fireplace mantels, stained glass, and other architectural features.”

There is an incredible variety of items at Renaissance Interiors. The ever and quickly changing inventory guarantees a new collection of treasures every time you walk through the doors. Renaissance also has a unique pricing and discount system, based on how long an item is on the showroom floor, to facilitate sales and get customers the best deals.

“Probably our greatest attribute is that in addition to many new customers from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette, we have many people who religiously come by one to three times a week, just to see the new items that have come in. We get new things in almost every day,” says Sibel. The high turnover and staggering amount of inventory has made Renaissance Interiors a hot spot for the movie and television industry. Hundreds of items originally found in Renaissance have found their way onto the sets of some of the biggest productions. “Recently, we did 21 Jump Street and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and we’re working with the crew of Parker, Ricochet, and G. I. Joe right now,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Renaissance Interiors
2727 Edenborn Ave
Metairie, LA 70002
504-454-3320
yourrenaissance.com

On the Right Track: StreetcarShops.com

Written by: Leroy Jenkins

If you live in, or frequent, the “Red Stick,” chances are you’ve noticed the StreetcarShops.com vibrant billboards on Bluebonnet, or even opened your mailbox to discover a personalized booklet of reward cards for your redeeming pleasure. Custom-painted by award-winning artist Terrance Osborne, the StreetcarShops.com artwork embodies the company’s mantra, “We Take You There,” encouraging you to live locally and support your city’s economy. And there’s no better encouragement than incentive.

StreetcarShops.com is a user-exclusive website that offers unlimited access to reward card offers available in your city; and you can find rewards for just about anything; sweet deals for your favorite restaurants, discounts on vet check-ups for your pet, and even gift cards for taking the time to test drive a new BMW. They’ve got everything, and the site even empowers you to share these rewards with your friends and family through the familiar portals of email and Facebook.

Once StreetcarShops.com has enough offers in a given city, they will start mailing out keepsake reward card booklets to you every three months. And if you’re wondering how to get your hands on one of these babies, it’s simple. Just sign up online, and you’ll be on the list to receive your very own booklet as soon as it’s available.

StreetcarShops.com mails over 25,000 booklets each quarter, and will also send them to nonmembers, based on certain demographic criteria; but if you really want to ensure you receive a book, it’s best to sign up. Whatever you do, don’t wait around your mailbox. All of the current offers are always available online for you to print anytime, as many times as you like, so you can start using your rewards right away.

If you’re bracing yourself for the proverbial “catch,” don’t hold your breath, because there isn’t one. StreetcarShops.com is completely free to consumers; no credit cards, commitments, or fine print-laden contracts to haunt you later on. The intrinsic idea behind StreetcarShops.com revolves around local living; creating and fostering a symbiotic relationship between retailers and consumers. The key for advertisers is to devise an offer that will attract new customers, as well as reward existing patrons for their loyalty, all without haphazardly giving away merchandise simply for a chance to make a sale. This mutually beneficial arrangement is why StreetcarShops.com advertisers allow, and even welcome, repeat redemption of their offers. Everybody wins.

The obvious competitors are the popular “50% off Deals of the Day,” but when comparing StreetcarShops.com to the myriad of these websites, it becomes increasingly clear that local businesses don’t need to sell the farm to attract business. Many of the restaurants and retailers who advertise with StreetcarShops.com have experienced excellent responses and above average redemption rates, all without needing to give a 50 to 90 percent discount to hundreds of customers who may never come back. If you ask founder Roger Smith (and any economics expert), he’ll contend, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

StreetcarShops.com has released several reward card booklets in Baton Rouge and Ascension Parish and currently hosts a slew of online offers for Shreveport, New Orleans, and the Northshore, with plans to mail booklets in these areas later this year. Plans are also in place to build more StreetcarShops.com “tracks” across Louisiana and beyond, as well as unveil some new applications and exciting web updates to help you live locally and reward yourself when you do.

I spoke with Roger Smith, the founder of StreetcarShops.com, to find out more about his “hybrid marketing” methods and plans for the future.

What gave you the idea for StreetcarShops.com?

I knew there was a need. There is a huge, gaping hole for local businesses trying to target their local audience. StreetcarShops.com fills that hole by positioning a business in front of their local audience for pennies per household. It’s a “hybrid marketing” campaign that blends traditional media with the new web and social media campaigns that make this work. There has been a lot of buzz about the web for the last 15 years or so, and the stories of what works keep changing from all of the so-called experts. All of the hype has small business owners confused as to what they need to do to be effective on the web. Most of them believe they need a website, but the problem is that web sites are very expensive to build and maintain. It’s also difficult to build a site that consumers will really engage with. The other problem is that making their target audience aware of their particular site requires a large budget. The one thing that a business does need is a web presence at a local level, and StreetcarShops.com does this better than anything else out there.

What is your favorite thing about the program?

It works. We are receiving great feedback from people that have advertised in the program and also generous support from consumers that are using the reward cards as introductory offers to do business locally.

How are you different from your competitors like Bargain Bee and Living Social, and how do you differentiate yourself in the market?

We are very different from the purchase online coupons in the fact that it costs the consumer nothing to use StreetcarShops.com. It’s a complimentary offer from the local business. It’s a win for the consumer as well as the business. That’s one of the things that makes this work.

How does StreetcarShops.com stay mutually beneficial for both consumers and local businesses?

The offers don’t break the back or the bank of the business making an offer. It’s a financially sound offer for both the consumer and the business. We encourage our advertisers to change their offer monthly, or as often as they like, to keep their customer motivated and engaged.

What are the benefits of going online if you’ve already received a reward card booklet in the mail?

The online component of StreetcarShops.com provides upgraded offers from retailers and also features offers in other cities, which is ideal for those who travel. Going online also enables you to forward offers to friends and family.

What kind of response have you experienced from consumers and advertisers?

The responses have been incredible. The most common question we hear from consumers is, “When are you coming to my city?”

How do you plan to expand StreetcarShops.com, and how do you see it evolving?

I see StreetcarShops.com becoming the local portal for businesses to get their message to consumers at a local level. StreetcarShops.com will continue to evolve, and we will keep putting the BEST product of its kind out there. We will keep doing all of this right here in Louisiana. Right now 100 percent of everything about this product is produced here. I am very proud of that. Everything we do is upscale, chic, and first class, and that will continue.

What cities do you plan to launch StreetcarShops.com in next?

Our plans for expansion into new areas depend on finding the right people. We will grow into other cities around the country as we find qualified candidates. We are looking for people who want to make a much better than average living and who want to keep their independence. It’s a business opportunity for someone with the right skill set and determination to succeed.

Are there any new online features or promotions we should be on the lookout for?

Right now we have a promotional giveaway of limited edition Terrance Osborne prints. He is a two-time jazz fest poster artist. We have commissioned him to work with StreetcarShops.com. All you have to do is send your comments to talktome@streetcarshops.com and tell us why you love StreetcarShops.com to receive your limited edition print. We also just gave away an iPad 2 to Joann Torres, so keep checking StreetcarShops.com and “Like us” on Facebook. We may do it again.

Testimonials

“We’ve been a member of StreetcarShops.com for nearly a year now, and we are extremely happy with the initial results. Within the first three quarters, we’ve seen over $100,000 in sales associated with the reward cards. The average sale per customer using their StreetcarShops.com Rewards card is actually 50 percent higher than our typical transaction. Clearly, StreetcarShops.com has been a great value to our business, and we will continue to use their services in the future.”
>>> Mitch Mayes, Louisiana Nursery

“StreetcarShops.com has been a GREAT marketing tool for The Londoner Pub & Grill! The redemption rate is fantastic; we have seen immediate results every time it has been published. We have been able to reach a lot of new guests with this product, and the StreetcarShops team has been wonderful to work with. I truly feel this is a partnership. They really work hand in hand with us to promote the business. I highly recommend it for anyone who might be interested!”

>>> Rob Irwin, The Londoner Pub & Grill

StreetcarShops.com

Romancing the Stone: D&D Ornamental Concrete

Written by: Simonette Berry

Where can you encounter a giant gorilla, a baby dinosaur, a slumbering dragon, and an angel with a six-foot wingspan surrounded by a host of genuflecting saints? Not in your dreams or even Disneyland (they don’t have saints), but the epic statuary section of D and D Ornamental Concrete. D and D has been offering an inspiring collection of statuary, fountains, birdbaths, garden furniture, and garden ornaments since 1986. With four acres in Napoleonville and another acre at the Baton Rouge location, D and D’s huge selection, among other things, has made it the largest wholesaler and retailer of statuary in Louisiana.

D and D was founded during the oil bust in the 80s and has grown steadily since its inception, thriving even through today’s recession. Founder Mike Dubois grew up working with his parents, Helen and Paul Dubois, at Dubois Nursery in Houma, where they carried a small selection of stone statues. Mike and his wife, co-founder Patricia Dubois, were attracted to the idea of being makers of their own destiny. With the help of Mike’s parents and a retiring statue manufacturer that offered to show them the tricks of the trade, the young couple started D and D Ornamental in 1986. “We started selling to other nurseries that I knew through my mom’s shop, and pretty soon I had a steady clientele. Almost every year we’ve earned more than the one before,” he says.

Patricia worked by Mike’s side as a statuary painter for the first 10 years the business was in operation. Now, she runs the Baton Rouge store and manages the accounting while Mike focuses on sales, production, and fountain installation at the Napoleonville location. People come through both stores on weekends in droves. Though D and D does a good bit of retail, the biggest business comes from wholesale customers; the company serves hundreds of them throughout the Gulf Coast region. “Wholesale was always our biggest market,” says Mike. “My mom’s nursery business gave me lots of ready-made connections, and word spread fast. For the first 15 years or so, it was word of mouth only. We didn’t need to advertise; we could barely handle the business we had! Now, we’ve expanded enough to advertise, and about seven or eight years ago we created the website. People can shop from their homes just by looking through the online catalog.”

“A lot of people come out just to look around. If you come here, make plans to spend a little time so you can see everything. We love having people, and we hardly ever lose customers once they’ve bought from us. Our prices are very competitive because we make 80 percent of everything we sell. So many people say to me they can’t believe how good our prices are, but I explain that we try to give our customers the same benefits we have.”

Mike pumps new life into the business every year with original sculptures, fountains, and ornaments. “We hire a sculptor from time to time to create new work or to do commissions. He’ll come into the shop and sculpt the pieces, and from those we make our own molds. He just did a huge fleur de lis fountain for us. He’s done giant tigers, 14-foot alligators, large Jesus and Mary statues, life-size angels, all sorts of things.”

“Our religious statues are very popular, especially here in the South. People tend to buy them especially after hurricanes, I’ve noticed. We have a lot of original religious pieces and a large selection, so people come from as far away as Houston, Shreveport, and Lake Charles to get them. It’s a fun way to meet people. The Wall Street Journal even did a feature in 1999 about our Virgin Mary statues.”

Driving around south Louisiana, you’ll find D and D pieces proudly displayed in front lawns, schoolyards, church courtyards, and businesses. St. Charles Avenue’s twin vistas, Audubon Park and Tulane University, are dotted with D and D classic benches, urns, and planters. Less than a mile away, Ursuline Academy has a seven-foot custom-made religious statue on their lawn. “The 12-foot-tall crucifixes with Jesus are popular around here, too—you’ll see them out on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge and in some of the church courtyards,” says Mike.

D and D statues are also popular for lighthearted lawn decor and advertising gimmicks. “The big blue gorilla statue on Highway 90 is ours. There’s one like it in Plaquemines Parish in a man’s front yard. He dresses it up like Santa, the Easter Bunny, sometimes like an LSU player. He makes the news just about every year,” he chuckles. “It’s a good feeling to ride down the road and see pieces you made 20 and 25 years ago in people’s yards. It’s a good feeling to make something that people want,” says Mike.

Bella Pietra, Bella Famiglia: The Stone Gallery

Written by: Simonette Berry

In business since 1999, the Stone Gallery is a sprawling, one-acre stone yard in Harahan. This is not your average stone experience; at the Stone Gallery, you can purchase slabs of stone for the same wholesale prices that are usually only offered to stone fabrication shops. There are stone selections to fit every budget. After 10 years in the business, the Stone Gallery owner, Johnny Altobello, Jr., decided his company was going to change the way natural stone was sold in southern Louisiana. He decided to clearly mark each color of stone with the name of the stone, the size of each slab, the price per square foot, and the price of the slab. “It’s the most honest way that I know of doing business,” says Johnny. “Customers leave our facility with all of the information they need to make an educated decision about their project. We take the mystery out of buying natural stone.”

“Our one-tiered pricing system is very important to me,” Johnny continues. “There are no games or gimmicks here, just premium quality material at wholesale prices. We charge the same price regardless if the customer is a stone fabrication shop, homeowner, contractor, or designer. Homeowners can buy their stone directly from us, and we will hold it for them until their job is ready,” he says. The Stone Gallery will also ship customers’ purchases to the stone fabrication shop of their choice, or if they don’t know a stone fabricator, one can be recommended from their list of preferred fabricators.

There are different grades of natural stone, just like there are different grades of diamonds, emeralds, and other gemstones. The Stone Gallery imports and sells only first-quality, premium grade natural stone, the highest grade available. “We have quality control people in Italy and Brazil who select the first quality stone just for us. Before we purchase the material chosen by our quality control staff, I must approve each stock. And I’m picky,” he laughs.

The Stone Gallery has over 150 colors of natural stone in stock and has access to hundreds more. The most popular have historically been marble and granite, but exotic quartzites are starting to take the market by storm. “It’s a natural stone that’s harder than granite, and it comes in some really gorgeous colors. The only stone harder than quartzite is a diamond. People are starting to ask for more exotic stones in unusual colors, so we’re importing more and more quartzite and unusual granites every month,” says Johnny.

“People’s taste in natural stone continues to mature. They don’t want the same colors of stone that they see everywhere; they want new, bold and fresh colors. We specialize in the unusual. When we opened in 1999, there were probably 10 colors of stone in this market. As we grew, I reinvested our profits into exotic stones, bringing colors to Louisiana that no one had ever seen. Some of the most popular exotic quartzites are Palomino, Fusion, and Symphony. We have many other colors that are here or en route from Brazil and Italy. We’re always adding new colors to our product line.”

By popular demand, the Stone Gallery also started carrying Blanco sinks and faucets. “Our customers wanted to be able to get everything they needed for their kitchen in one place. They told us that if we had sinks, tile, and backsplash ideas, they wouldn’t have to run all over the city! So, we’ve made it a one-stop shop. We also carry an extensive line of DuPont stone care and maintenance products, as well as stone remnants and half slabs of marble for vanity tops and smaller projects. Like the larger, full slabs of stone, these smaller pieces are on display in the stone yard and all marked with the stone name, size, and price. Customers can also shop by taking the virtual tour of our stone yard on our website, stonegalleryno.com,” Johnny says.

The Stone Gallery is the oldest wholesaler of stone in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and it has been a family owned and operated business since day one. Johnny started the business on a small covered lot on Airline Highway. “It was me, the forklift, a cordless phone, and the office trailer. Bathroom breaks and lunch breaks were luxuries,” he says. Though many members of the Altobello clan have worked at the Stone Gallery over the years, the sales team now consists of Johnny Jr., his wife and business partner Carolyn, their son Johnny III, and Johnny’s brother-in-law, John Bordes.

The family staff gives personalized golf cart tours to assist customers in selecting the perfect piece of stone for their project. While on the golf cart tour, you ride through rows and rows of beautifully displayed natural works of art. The Stone Gallery is truly an art gallery of stone, with an extensive natural stone and porcelain tile selection for flooring and backsplash materials. Carolyn offers free design services and advice for customers who purchase their countertops from the Stone Gallery. Once Carolyn and the customer have agreed on a backsplash selection, they again visit the stone yard with a sample of the backsplash to see it next to the slabs of stone selected for the kitchen or bath.

“I’ve done a number of things in my professional career and liked all of them, but none as much as this,” says Johnny. “It’s great to see our customers get excited when they find the perfect stone for their kitchen or bath. This isn’t a job; it’s a passion, and it’s one shared by my entire family.”

The Stone Gallery
5600 Mounes Street
Harahan, LA 70123
504-733-5566
stonegalleryno.com

Timeless Design: Supreme Ornamental Ironworks

Written by: Simonette Berry

Graceful scrolls, vine tendrils, and ornate old world designs are interwoven into the rich fabric of Louisiana’s architecture in the form of historic ornamental ironwork. Iron is a timeless medium; old houses are restored around it. Wood rots, bricks crumble, and cement sidewalks crack beside the gracefully aging balconies, railings, fences, and window grilles of yesteryear that stand strong through hundreds of hurricane seasons and frosty winters. These works of art crown the homes and businesses that local families hand down for generations.

Karl Adams, founder of Supreme Ornamental Ironworks, was drawn to the old ironwork in the Vieux Carré long before he began creating it himself. At the time, he owned a muffler and quick lube shop, where he enjoyed restoring classic motorcycles. “Every Saturday, I used to ride through the French Quarter with three friends of mine, and I’d stop and look at the ironwork. I still go there for inspiration today. I like studying the old European style, where the roots are, and looking at the workmanship. I’m always researching and looking for inspiration. I learn something new every day.

Adams started playing around with ironwork in 1994 in his shop. He made garden gates and small ironwork panels for friends and enjoyed the creative spark that happened with each new job. In 1998, a local contractor asked Adams to create a 200-foot fence across the front of a new cemetery. After creating a long, elegant fence, much larger than anything he had done before, Adams realized he had found his true calling in ornamental iron. Since completing the cemetery project for the Houma Thibodaux Archdiocese, Adams has gone on to build dozens of custom fences and architectural elements for their many schools, churches, and cemeteries over the past 13 years.

Three years ago, Adams made the final leap away from auto work and closed his muffler and quick lube shop. He converted the building into another fabrication studio for Supreme Ornamental, whose two facilities now span over 7,000 feet and feature cutting edge CAD design technology. Supreme Ornamental Ironworks now specializes in creating wrought iron fencing, gates, New Orleans-style posts and ornamental designs, staircases, balcony railings, and various architectural elements. They also offer custom awnings, chimney tops, dormers, flashing, and other ornamental iron pieces done in copper and colored metal. “I have eight specially trained team members. I could have 25 if I wanted, but for the quality of what I want to produce, I need a small, tightly knit team. I want to be positive about the quality of what I put out there, and I’m not out to do mass production,” says Adams. “I’m very particular about each piece of ironwork being completely solid. Everything we put out is a high quality, refined product, so no bolts or tack welding. After the construction is done, each piece is sandblasted, primed, and painted with industrial marine enamel. These pieces will stand the test of time.”

“I do everything hands-on. When you call me for a job, I make an appointment and we’re going to spend at least an hour together at first. Then, I’ll invite you out to the workshop to see how things are done. Then, we sit down to create the final design. I am with my clients every step of the way,” Adams says.

Adams and his team spend three weeks out of each month constructing and finishing; the rest of the time, they are on the road, installing work throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. “If someone wants our work, we will travel wherever they want us to,” he says. After Gustav, Adams was called to Mississippi to painstakingly replicate and restore damaged ironwork that dated back to the 1800s. He is most popular, though, in South Louisiana, where he has woven old New Orleans ironwork styles along the main boulevards of Thibodaux and Houma. His work can be seen at the Ellendale Country Club, the Baton Rouge Country Club of Louisiana, St. John’s Episcopal Church (the oldest church south of the Mississippi River), in every home in the Acadia Plantation subdivision, and throughout countless other commercial facilities, businesses, schools, churches, and homes. “I’ve worked for a lot of high-profile, popular people, but I respect their privacy. Sometimes I won’t even take pictures. I’ll just say that I’ve worked on some pretty amazing projects in my time.”

“I wanted to create a company that no one else around here had, something people had never heard of. The fact that everything is custom designed, built by hand, and tailored to the customer’s needs is what has made us so successful. I like building something you can’t find anywhere else. If a person can explain what their vision is, we can create it. We can build anybody’s dream.”

Supreme Ornamental
2870 Hwy 1
Labadieville, LA
(985) 526-0056

The Secret to Success: Brian’s Furniture

Written by: Simonette Berry

Louisiana has many “locals-only” secrets; where to get the best boudin (Hebert’s Meat Market in Maurice), where to go hear the best music (if you don’t know, ask a local), and where you got them shoes (according to the French Quarter scam artists, they’re “on yo’ feet!”). In the heart of downtown Port Allen’s historic district, there is another well-kept secret; a city block transformed into a shopper’s paradise. Brian’s Furniture is anything but a simple furniture store. The 40,000-square-foot complex is made up of four specialty shops offering indoor and outdoor furniture, accessories, art, and miscellaneous architectural pieces. You’ll find everything from bedroom sets and patio furniture to original Louisiana art and a life-size Star Wars C3PO and E.T. for your lawn.

At one time, Brian’s was a 5,000-square-foot warehouse that offered interior furnishings only. Thirty years later, it has become a destination spot where shoppers stop to spend the day. Brian Fourroux, owner of this unique, family-run business, says his success is no secret. He is constantly recreating and adding to his space. Brian works with his wife, Keri, and his nephew, Tyler, to keep each space lively and never the same the next time you visit. “We’ve become the superstore of outdoor living. People come from all around to see what we’ve got,” Brian says.

“Saturdays are big here,” he says. Across the street from the large indoor furniture store, Brian converted his father’s old service station into a quaint, New Orleans-style courtyard. On certain weekends, a musician plays traditional jazz, his melodies filtering sweetly through the sunlit rows of chairs, statues, and fountains. Several artists hang their paintings along the fence, and you’ll often find Brian’s in-house artist painting on the patio or decorating the sugar kettles and furniture in brilliantly colored finishes. A variety of aluminum patio furniture, mailboxes, lawn ornaments, bronze and copper fountains, and garden ornaments fill the space. “The jazz and the art on the fence give the space that old New Orleans feeling. It’s got charm. People love it,” he says.

Brian’s Furniture offers a milieu of outdoor elements. The New Orleans courtyard is filled with the largest selection of unique outdoor furniture, architectural pieces, mailboxes, light posts, and miscellaneous outdoor accents. “We have New Orleans-style light fixtures in aluminum and copper, and over 20 different styles of mailboxes alone to choose from.” A popular item is Brian’s custom designed fleur-de-lis patio set, which he had custom designed around the fleur-de-lis that was once on the old Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi. The fine workmanship and designs of Brian’s aluminum patio furniture almost supersedes its other charms. By virtue of being aluminum, it’s easy to move around and rust-free; and the pieces are all powder coated, which makes the product virtually maintenance free.

“Our niche is the New Orleans-style courtyard, but we have much more to offer, and people see that once they walk in the door,” he says. Brian’s Furniture just added another location within the complex; a sugar kettle yard. “We have hundreds of sugar kettles, probably the largest collection and selection in the entire southern region. We have cast iron sugar kettles guaranteed not to rust in two, three, four, five, six, and seven foot. We call the seven-foot sugar kettle ‘the coonass hot tub!'” he laughs. Brian’s Furniture also offers fiberglass sugar kettles made from molds of old Louisiana sugar kettles, with New Orleans, LA stenciled on the rim. “We have the fiberglass in two, three, four, five, and six foot. They are absolutely beautiful kettles, and once the natural aging process begins, you can barely tell the difference between the fiberglass and the iron.

In the main furniture store, Brian has a huge selection of indoor home furnishings. “In our main store, we specialize in reclaimed cypress pieces,” he explains. “I have a talented carpenter, a true Louisiana craftsman who was trained as a cabinetmaker. He creates beautiful consoles, desks, dining tables, end tables, armoires, buffets, and many customized pieces from Louisiana cypress wood.” The main store also houses Brian’s mid- to high-end imported reproduction accent pieces for the home. Next door is Brian’s furniture warehouse, where you can find great deals on discounted pieces. Biannual auctions are held in the warehouse (for more information on the auctions and special events, subscribe to the newsletter at www.briansfurniture.com).

Brian’s Furniture also features over 400 pieces of art by local artists inside the main store. Every week he spotlights a few of them, creating a constantly rotating wall space filled with Louisiana imagery and local color. If the music and art doesn’t grab you from the street, the comic relief out front will. Brian’s sense of humor shines through his choice in statuary; his street looks almost like a scene from a fantastic children’s book or television show. “We’ve got a life-size tiger, a huge alligator, life-size cigar Indian, a giraffe, and a six-foot-tall pelican along the fence out front. It adds a unique touch to downtown,” he chuckles. “Bring your camera!”

Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild presents:
 Les Boutiques de Noel

Written by: Simonette Berry

Are you one of those people who finds yourself weaving in and out of crowded department store aisles a few days before Christmas, battling the masses instead of making like Betty Crocker? Canned holiday music is barely audible over the din of long, bustling queues in which the nearly deaf or technologically impaired yell urgently into cell phones, and badly behaved children tear through displays like tiny bulls charging at every red bow in sight (there’s always one in the store during Christmas who you just know is getting coal in his stocking that year). As you wait in line, you tell yourself, again, boy, procrastination just isn’t worth it. Last minute shopping is the last way to get into the holiday spirit. Wouldn’t you would rather be home decorating your tree to “Santa Baby” and smiling like a Cheshire cat at all of your neatly wrapped presents and spotless house?

The Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild has a solution for you, restless Christmas shopper. To prevent holiday procrastination, combine one part winter wonderland with two parts open market-style shopping, add a dash of support-the-arts, and pour in a frosted glass. The 37th annual Boutiques de Noel brings a one-stop-shopping open market event to the Bossier Civic Center this year. All proceeds of this festive shopping event will benefit the Shreveport Opera and their educational outreach program, the Shreveport Opera Express. One of the oldest opera companies in the country, the Shreveport Opera is now celebrating its 63rd season. Get your holiday shopping done before December settles her icy mantle over Louisiana, and let your gift list benefit an extraordinary local arts organization.

The marketplace is held Thursday, November 17th, through Saturday, November 19th. Admission is $7 and valet parking is $5. Among the many exciting events on the schedule is a fashion show Friday night and a special appearance by Santa on Saturday. This year’s theme is “Winter Wonderland,” and the 19th-century-style open market will be twinkling with holiday spirit. Over 100 vendors display their wares at this one-stop-shopping extravaganza. You can browse through art, jewelry, clothing, decorations, and a myriad of gift items to knock out your Christmas list in one fell swoop. The lovely Boutiques de Noel gala, where you can enjoy fine cuisine, music, and exclusive pre-shopping, is held on the evening of Wednesday, November 16th, and tickets are still available.

The seed for the 19th-century-style marketplace was planted in the 1970s when Delton Harrison, co-chair of the Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild at the time, stumbled upon a holiday market set up in a Madison Avenue hotel in New York City. He found the idea of a Christmas bazaar enchanting, and decided to propose it to the opera board as a way to raise money and involve local retailers. The first Boutique de Noel, in 1974, was a smashing success, and the event quickly became the guild’s largest fundraising event.

The Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild’s mission, since its inception in 1949, has been to promote the love and appreciation of vocal music in all of its forms and to financially support the opera. Early fundraising efforts included style shows, luncheons, and membership dues, attracting stars like Beverly Sills, Franco Corelli, Sherrill Milnes, and Leontyne Price. The Shreveport Opera has also helped launch the careers of internationally acclaimed stars like Renée Fleming and Greer Grimsley.

The proceeds of Les Boutiques de Noel add to the Opera Guild’s efforts to bring the best and brightest to the stage, and also benefit the Shreveport Opera Express Program. SOX is the only opera education and outreach program in the state and one of few in the country, starting its 12th season this year. With schools cutting music education programs right and left, SOX’s mission is to make sure as many students as possible are still exposed to the arts. Each year they reach 50,000 students in Louisiana, east Texas, southern Arkansas, and Mississippi. They educate children, youths, and adults with touring shows. Blossoming performers from around the country, often fresh out of college, audition for the chance to spend nine months touring and performing with the company. This year, they are putting on 
a show about bully prevention and another about the green movement for elementary students. For high school students and adults, they offer Operatizers, a broadway-style opera concert to give the audience a feel for the multiple 
genres and applications of musical theater.

Help support the Shreveport Opera by becoming a sponsor, or by purchasing tickets for Les Boutiques de Noel market and gala from Maria Casten at (318) 797-9484 or (318) 470-7385. 
To join the Guild, mail $25 to Wendy Harper, 109 Preston Ave., Shreveport, LA 71105. Enter the 
Winter Wonderland this season and experience the magic of Christmas with the Shreveport Opera.