Growing up in New Orleans, I took for granted many of the locally made food products that aren’t sold in other cities. It wasn’t until I moved away that I truly missed certain luxuries, such as spicy beans and king cakes, and had to patiently wait until my trips home for Mardi Gras or Christmas to experience a well-rounded Bloody Mary.
While many who move away wait until the holidays to stock up on their favorite New Orleans treats, some source them from various online markets or specialty shops that can ship goodies to them.
One couple, however, started a new business out of their culinary yearnings when they moved away.
In 2008, Lovey and Brett Wakefield founded NolaCajun.com, an e-commerce site that offers Cajun and New Orleans specialty food to national and international customers.
The husband-wife duo started the site in Houston, where they were living after Hurricane Katrina. Having both been born and raised in Louisiana, they found it very difficult to find some of their favorite Louisiana-based foods and condiments in Texas. From the absence of the Hubig’s Pies at the check-out counter and Central Grocery Olive Salad in the condiments aisle, they saw an opportunity.
Since its inception, NolaCajun.com has evolved into an offering of a wide range of Louisiana-based products, specializing in New Orleans and Cajun food. Products range from Big Shot Soda and Zatarain’s seasoning to Camellia red beans and Community Coffee, just to name a few of the things found on the site. They also offer gift baskets, as well as specialties such as king cakes, turduckens, and stuffed chickens.
While the concept of the internet company is to make it easy for misplaced New Orleanians and lovers of the city alike to find their favorite products in one place, the Wakefields want their customers to feel the same familiarity as they once did at their local, family-based grocery store.
“When our customers call to place an order, they get the whole experience, “ explains Lovey. “It’s so nice. We always feel like we know the customer so well, and sometimes find ourselves exchanging recipes and ideas.”
Lovey says that sometimes they even receive Christmas gifts and cards from their customers, showing appreciation for having New Orleans and a piece of home a little more accessible to them, no matter where they live.
In 2009, the entrepreneurial couple returned to New Orleans to get back to the city they love so much, and to continue the expansion of their small business. They are consistently adding new products to their repertoire, often finding specialty goods at their customer’s requests and adding them to their online collection.
They also have big plans to expand their range of products by including items from specialty groceries and restaurants, as well as more merchandise, such as New Orleans gifts and cookbooks. One of the things they are looking forward to the most is making the site more interactive, by adding a few lagniappe options such as a restaurant guide and recipes.
In addition to the accessibility offered by their move back to New Orleans, Lovey and Brett said they are excited and fortunate to be a part of the city’s entrepreneurial growth.
With the holidays around the corner, it is important that we focus on helping our local economy and giving back to our community besides just our friends and family. Shop local this year, buy products from Louisiana, and support New Orleans retail shops and entrepreneurs. You’ll even get extra points for sending someone in exile a piece of New Orleans.