Two years ago, NOLA Boards' (4304 Magazine St., 504-516-2601; www.nolaboards.com) business consisted of filling a single request for a cutting board. Today, its Uptown store has shipped kitchen goods to every state in the contiguous U.S. and to Canada.
In 2014, Daren Sumrow, a carpenter and owner of New Orleans Woodworking, and his wife and co-owner of the shop, Mandy Simpson, crafted a cutting board from leftover wood. They posted their creation on social media, and business took off. The duo was surprised by their overnight popularity, which included a full page in Rachael Ray Every Day magazine's 2015 holiday gift guide.
"It was completely unsolicited," Simpson says. "Someone on her team put a [cutting] board in her hands and she just loved it."
The company's cutting boards are made of walnut, cherry, maple and Louisiana sinker cypress, which gets its unique green and blue hues from minerals the roots have absorbed over decades. Sumrow and Simpson incorporate exotic woods in the Mardi Gras board — a festive combination of yellow and purple heart cypress and green-tinged sinker. Simpson emphasizes the durability and natural beauty of the woods they select for their products.
"Friends don't let friends use bamboo," she says.
The cutting boards sport Louisiana-themed names, often inspired by their function. One design does triple duty as a small cheese board, with a magnetized handle that stores the cheese knife. An opening in its center displays a bottle of wine. Simpson christened this one the "Hole-y Trinity."
"We have a lot of fun with it," she says.
NOLA Boards are also available at the Historic New Orleans Collection gift shop in the French Quarter and at Merchant coffee bar and restaurant in the CBD. They'll be sold at NOLA on Tap, and the store will be open during Art for Arts' Sake. The Magazine Street storefront features other artists' wares: cocktail bitters, jewelry, metal sculptures and hand-blown glass.
Simpson plans to add more artists in the fall, including an illustrator specializing in woodburning. The couple will unveil their kitchen showroom at the NOLA Home Show in January 2017. They'll also expand New Orleans Woodworking's custom fabrication and design work into the NOLA Boards shop, offering items including countertops and living room furniture.