Sister stores opened in the past few months on Magazine Street and in the French Quarter help shoppers realize their wishes for affordable fashion-forward apparel and home decor.
Wish (3316 Magazine St., 897-0088; 306 Chartres St., 552-4301) stores are set up to look like vintage shops, but everything in them is new -- and less than $40.
"The merchandise looks like something that would be in grandma's attic, very shabby chic," says William Shoemaker, director of operations for American Apparel Concepts, Wish's Los Angeles-based parent company. "The merchandise ranges in price from $4.50 to $38.50; we never do anything over $38.50."
Offering shoppers quality clothing at low prices is possible because American Apparel Concepts supplies the fashions through its own manufacturing plants, Shoemaker says. The 10-year-old California firm is a retail "concept" company that works with six different concepts of which Wish is one. Others include contemporary accessories, men's and women's designer lines and more.
"Every store is totally different," he says. "In New Orleans (our target age) is 25 to 45. The Magazine location is a little different. They're picking up more the 16-to-death (age range). It's such a variety of ages it blows me away."
Although all the different concept stores are furnished merchandise by American Apparel Concepts manufacturing plants, Shoemaker says they all receive goods designed for their individual concepts and markets. "Our inventory only crosses over about 20 percent within our stores," he says. "But the Wish store was designed to pull from all our regular stores. The Wish stores get everything. We have some contemporary stores that are high-end in other locations, and Wish gets a lot of merchandise from them. It's affordable but it's not disposable clothing. Our quality is there."
In addition to contemporary of-the-moment clothing styles for men and women, Wish also offers drinking glasses from a glass house in Mexico and throw pillows assembled from vintage fabrics. The store also features lots of jewelry and accessories, including brooches, earrings, bracelets, handbags, lipstick holders, ponchos and more.
The concept, developed earlier this year, has proven popular in the locations where Wish has operated. "We're featured in Lucky (a shopping magazine) a lot out of the Houston area," Shoemaker says. "(That Wish store) has been very successful." He believes the local stops will have a similar experience. "I think a lot of people are drawn in by the concept itself," he says. "We never do more than one (Wish store) in a city, but we fell in love with Magazine Street. The city has so much charm and the energy level is so strong. Southern women know what they want and they're always looking for [the latest] trend."
American Apparel Concepts also plans to bring another of its concept stores into New Orleans. Method, which focuses on the firm's designer collections by seasons for men and women, is expected to open in early 2005.
Raising the Bar In a neighborhood filled with old-line taverns that have served local residents for decades, Mimi's In the Marigny (2602 Royal St., 942-0690) is making its own mark with a fully stocked bar, fun specialty nights and bar food in the tradition of Spain.
Both downstairs at the bar and Upstairs at Mimi's -- which has a cozier, more relaxed atmosphere -- customers can order tapas, appetizer-sized portions of foods that complement the spirits they're consuming. Most of the tapas choices are Spanish, but Chef Joaquin Rodas, who owns Mimi's with three other partners, says there also are American dishes.
"We're trying to elevate the standard of bar food," he says. "The type of tapas we're doing at Mimi's is more along the line of traditional tapas. There are some American influences, but it is Spanish." Tapas is bar food in Spain, he says, where people are in tune with the concept of eating while drinking to ensure they don't get too inebriated. Upstairs also has a larger selection of Spanish and South American wines and a full selection of sherries and ports.
The bar downstairs has a full complement of beer, wine and liquor, and regulars like to listen to the electric array of CD music the bartenders choose, throw darts or shoot pool. On Wednesday nights, the bar plays host to the French Quarter pool league.
"The bar downstairs is very inviting and has a great selection of beer and liquor," Rodas says. "We have a good regular crowd here. The upstairs is a little bit more cozy and loungy, and the downstairs is more a bar atmosphere."
Upstairs at Mimi's has several specialty nights, including tango lessons and dancing on Wednesdays. DJ Soul Sista from WWOZ spins mostly '70s dance and Old School music on Saturday nights. Rodas says the bar has no plans for live music entertainment, for which the bar has no permit, but is exploring the possibility of expanding specialty nights to include more options. As for the name, Mimi's In the Marigny: Yes, there really is a Mimi -- Mimi Dykes, one of the partners -- and she can be found running the bar most evenings. Rodas says the establishment was named after her because her management of the bar gave the place its character and ambience.
- The new Wish store on Magazine Street is designed with a vintage attitude, but all the merchandise is new and priced under $40.