HOME FURNISHINGS CAFE
Lower Garden District: 1600 Prytania St
For several decades the Halpern family operated a number of hip, contemporary furniture stores around the New Orleans area. Baby boomers moving into their first apartments were their best customers. The Halperns sold the original store in Metairie at its peak, and opened a smaller, even trendier place called The Home Furnishings Store on Prytania Street. The timing was perfect: the vogue for renovating old houses was taking off. The store was in such a neighborhood: the Lower Garden District, which contained many large but run-down houses perfect for renovators.
The Home Furnishings Store became more than a home furnishings store. I bought almost everything for my own first house there, and every time I popped into the store I’d run into friends. I was not the only one who had this happen. The place became something of a hangout.
The Halperns took advantage of this social aspect and installed a small café on the second floor. It was just short of being a full-service restaurant. Operating cafeteria-style, the Home Furnishings Café served salads, sandwiches, and a few hot plate specials. No serious grilling or frying, lest the process smell up the sofas and beds. The menu evolved into a nice collection of lighter eats. It became a favorite of people working in the neighborhood. Because most of the customers were women, the Café attracted a fair number of men.
I was on the staff of the Figaro weekly newspaper in those days. Our office was right behind the Home Furnishings Store. (In fact, the Halperns were our landlords.) I drank many a cup of coffee and glass of wine in there with many a sandwich, quiche, or salad. When the Figaro staff needed to take a meeting about something, we’d pop over to the Home Furnishings Café to get a fresh perspective on our work. It was a great little place, and the unlikeliness of its location added some charm to it. In the 1990s, the place dwindled, and by the time of the hurricane it was gone–although there always seems to be a spark still glowing back there somewhere.
Sez my review in 1991: “All of this is better than it has any right to be, and the ambience is engaging.”