Producer-turned-entrepreneur Laurie Malaga opened Ladybug & Chocolate (6107 Magazine St., 899-8120; www.ladybugandchocolate.com) more than a year ago as a unique shop where women could find everything they needed to be happy, "except for the man."
After spending several years in Los Angeles and New York, Malaga wanted to return to New Orleans, where her grandmother lives, and take part in the burgeoning shopping area along Magazine Street. "For me, it was always first and foremost that I wanted to come back to New Orleans," she says of her decision to change careers. "I started researching what was already here in terms of stores and what I could bring that was new and unique to Magazine Street. My whole thing was (to open) a place for women where they could get everything they wanted, except for the man."
Malaga originally envisioned something of a neighborhood drug store atmosphere where shoppers could find everything from toothpaste, hosiery and moisturizers to medicines to make them feel better. "The chocolates were my kind of drug-in-the-back-of-thestore thing" instead of a pharmacy, she laughs. She gave up on toothpaste and pantyhose as well because she wanted to carry more exclusive merchandise such as Underglam lingerie, vintage handbags and jewelry, and Zents aromatherapy products made with essential oils.
"It's really evolved," she says. "From beauty products to home accessories to chocolate ... it's a nice mix. I wanted to be the place where you could get unique gifts. I wanted people to be able to buy a soap for 85 cents or something for $150, where anyone could come in and find something fun that would make them feel better."
Among the other products she sells are interesting reconstructed sweaters that have sleeves made from vintage scarves, baby gifts ranging from handmade booties to handmade water-colored blocks, Le Sportsac handbags, Alora room freshener sticks, makeup by Medic and Alchemy, Ole Henriksen skin-care products, men's skin care and shaving items by Anthony, a variety of Aesop lines, and Kai candles, perfume, oil and body spray. Her candy includes Mariebelle, flavored chocolates with edible pictures silk-screened on them or calendar chocolate bars, and confections by Altmann & Kuhne, including miniature "Liliput" gourmet chocolates packaged in Vienna-inspired keepsake boxes ranging from treasure chests to dresser drawers. There also are luscious bon-bons, fudge, brownies and other selections available.
"The thing that's so great is that I really wanted to have something that tasted great but also had an eye for the design and packaging," she says. "It's great to have the quality meet the design. People keep coming back because [the chocolates] taste great. It's been a bit of a challenge not to just be known as a chocolate shop, but I try to do that by the diversity of the store: beauty, home, accessories and gifts."
Web of Resources
Three years ago, former Californians Michael Budro and William Holloway booted up www.1stdibs.com, a website that sold an impressive inventory of Paris flea market finds to designers only. The user-friendly site, which specializes in mid-century modern, was an instant success. So last summer, the team decided to expand the site, introducing vendors located in New York City and the Hamptons, and open it to collectors outside of the trade as well.
This month, 1stdibs launched a New Orleans arm of the site featuring five local antiques shops: Bremermann Designs, Soniat House Antiques, Maison de Provence, Empire Antiques and Jon Vaccari Design. An average of about 5,000 items -- antique, vintage and a select sampling of limited edition 21st century pieces -- are available through 1stdibs, with new pieces added every Wednesday at 11 a.m.
To make a purchase buyers can place a bid through the site, which handles negotiating, shipping and handling for an added 20 percent buyer's premium, or contact dealers directly (individual store information is easily accessible). Collectors need not leave home to window browse, but Budro, who now makes his home in the Hamptons, says tourists who are unfamiliar with the bounty of top-tier antiques in New Orleans will be eager to do just that.
"It's a good representation of what's available, so people from out of the area will be encouraged to visit the stores." -- Lee Cutrone
Love to Help
A group of Tulane University Medical students have organized a 5k run from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 14 at the Magazine Street entrance to Audubon Park. Proceeds will benefit Bridging Health Together, a student-run program at the Bridge House substance abuse treatment facility.
Participants may register at 9 a.m. on the day of the race or at the Tulane School of Medicine cafeteria (1430 Tulane Ave.) from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. or noon to 1 p.m. through Feb. 13. Entry fee is $10 and includes a T-shirt and light breakfast after the run. -- Graves
- Owner Laurie Malaga stocks her Ladybug & Chocolate store Uptown with body products, great scents, handbags, jewelry, lingerie, a range of gifts and, of course, chocolate delicacies.