Its only retail store is in New Orleans, but Orient Expressed (3905 Magazine St., 899-3060; www.orientexpressed.com) has a following all over the United States. In fact, although this year marks the business' 30th anniversary, the store itself has been open only 15 years. Before that, owners Bee Fitzpatrick and Dabney Jacob held trunk shows of antiques they had bought during travels to Asia and later added children's clothing that Fitzpatrick designs.
'We're real eclectic," marketing director Vicki Moran says of the store's variety of wares, which ranges from antiques and home decorations to women's accessories and " what it's best known for " children's clothing, specifically hand-smocked outfits. Orient Expressed also has expanded into easy-care knit fashions for women: 'We're growing with the times, adding things that are appropriate to today's moms," Moran says.
It was because of her own children that Moran became involved with the business in the first place. Almost a decade ago, while volunteering at a school fundraiser, she was recruited to work at Orient Expressed by another volunteering mother who worked at the store. Moran says she was only supposed to stay through the busy holiday season, but has been there ever since.
'Many of us have our children and grandchildren dressed in Orient Expressed (clothes)," Moran says of her fellow employees. 'Lots of us had our children grow up together."
Over the years, the store's presence outside of New Orleans has grown steadily as the team continues to do home shows all over the country and customers place orders year-round through the Orient Expressed catalog and Web site. 'We get out there in lots of different ways," Moran says.
Orient Expressed also has a strong bond with locals.
'[It's] known as a really friendly shop," Moran says. 'We're very accommodating. We know most of our customers. [It's] kind of like a little place to come and hang out."
The staff demonstrated its dedicaton to customers right after Hurricane Katrina as workers filled orders from Houston during evacuation, and later worked with no electricity in New Orleans, all in an effort to get inventory out to customers across the country.
- Best known for its quality hand-smocked children's clothing, Orient Expressed also carries women's accessories, Asian imports and antiques, as well as gifts and other home decor items.