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March 28th, 2009

Local Charms Help Support Local Community

Earlier this month, my friend Emily and I traveled down to New Orleans and stumbled upon this charming little jewelry store called Isabella's Fairy Dust (Yelp review) located at 614 Royal Street in the French Quarter.  It was not only the dazzling array of lovely, unique, and simply beautiful "jewelry, masks, stained glass, kaleidoscopes, fairies, and angels" that had us so captivated, but the fact that every piece in the store had been crafted by local artisans.

Though the media gives mostly encouraging reports coming out of New Orleans and it's slowly - but surely - recovering economy, the truth is that the Crescent City and its multitude of talented artists are still struggling.  The shopkeepers of Isabella's told us that stores around the French Quarter - even up and down the daytime "walking mall" of Royal Street with its chic boutiques and gilded antique stores - were closing up one by one.  It is a sad but all too true reality.

That is why it is so very important for locals, visitors, day-trippers, tourists, and/or vacationers to help support this most basic fabric of New Orleans's culture by supporting local artists and the shops that sale their wares.

If you dine in the city, be sure to do so at a locally-owned restaurant such as the Clover Grill (900 Bourbon), China Moon Wok (800 St. Ann), Coop's Place (1109 Decatur), Mona Lisa's (1212 Royal) or Angelli (Decatur at Governor Nicholls).  You can get McDonald's and Subway anywhere and any day.

If you need a grocery-type item, skip Walgreens and take your business to one of the Quarter's quaint, time-worn stores like the Royal Street Grocery & Deli (801 Royal), Central Grocery (923 Decatur),  Matassa's Market (1001 Dauphine) or, a personal favorite, the Verti Marte (1201 Royal).  Though the prices may be a bit higher, the atmosphere of these old and friendly groceries and the quality of local produce more than make up for it; plus you have the satisfaction of knowing your money went to help a community in need rather than a giant, nameless corporation.

If you shop, be sure to visit the artists in Jackson Square as well as the myriad of shops lining the streets of the French Quarter; be on the lookout for locally hand-crafted items.  Every such purchase that you make while visiting New Orleans helps this community to rebuild, and every penny that goes back into the hands of it's multicultural, multi-talented, and colorful citizenry helps New Orleans remain the magical, eccentric place that so many treasure. (See FrenchQuarter.com's Shopping page for where to find shops by item, great articles on the latest shopping trends & shop happenings, and lots more.)

You can also visit the New Orleans/French Quarter page at Wikitravel for listings and descriptions of more locally-owned businesses and eateries that are worth a visit.

Supporting shops like Isabella's Fairy Dust, with its simply breathtaking pieces and friendly, local ownership boasting wares from area artisans, goes to the very heart of bringing New Orleans - and its residents - back to life.  I encourage you to visit this charming little jewelry shop - I simply don't have words to describe the many beautiful baubles and precious pieces we saw there; it's something you must see for yourself - and others like it to help support this striving community and the people who make it so great.

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