Labors of Love: Top Business Profiles of 2019
Another great year is in the books. Once again, I’ve had the privilege, honor and joy to write about and celebrate some of the many business owners who make New Orleans such a phenomenal place to live. I wrote about businesses that are decidedly woven into the fabric of our New Orleanian culture and those new businesses just starting to make their own marks.
As the largest distributor of red beans in the country, Camellia Brand has been bringing delicious beans to the dining room table for almost a century. Fourth-generation owner and CEO of Camellia Brand, Vince Hayward, said of his company that with so many negative things coming out about New Orleans these days, he’s glad Camellia Brands can show our culture in a positive light.
“I feel fortunate to live here and when I travel, I’m proud to say I’m from New Orleans,” he said. I can’t imagine having a better job.”
In the late 1870s, Sam H. Meyer, delivered hats walking from a St. Charles Avenue hat store to customers in the Garden District. Within a few years, he opened what would become Meyer the Hatter, the South’s largest hat store.
“There’s a hat for everyone,” said Paul Meyer, heir and current owner. “People wear hats to keep their heads warm and to keep them shaded from the sun, but really the main reason one wears a hat is for style and looking sharp.”
Joel Brown launched Kosher Cajun NY Deli & Grocery 32 years ago in his mother’s kitchen. He and his wife, Natalie, started out slowly. “We’d make some money and then buy a freezer, make some more money and buy a deli slicer and a microwave,” he said. Now, the 5,000-square-foot grocery and restaurant seats 70, employs 10 people and is the hub of a vibrant and appreciative community.
Darrin Elliott, Sr. and Ian Kennard also started their business in a mother’s home. That business, Elliott Security Solutions, has since grown into a venture with yearly earnings reaching $7.2 million.
“We really just hopped out on faith and believed that God was going to do something special for us, and it happened,” said Elliot.
An entrepreneurial triumvirate eschewing corporate corner offices and Brooks Brothers suits who plan their next moves beneath a blue pop-up tent in an Uptown courtyard, Cary Greenwood, Noah Stambovsky and Sam Stein are the team behind Drinker’s Edition, an app that connects users to happy hours happening at local bars and restaurants.
“We’re pretty laid back and do most of our work on our cell phones and laptops in our backyard office,” said Stein.
The app is currently in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and recently, Houston. “We just updated the app with more features, such as restaurant reviews and recommendations,” said Stein. “We encourage people to update the app if they have it.”
This year I also spoke with Chef Isaac Toups, who brings 300 years of his Cajun family traditions to all his menus. The New Orleans chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality was named “Fan Favorite” on Season 13 of the Bravo TV show “Top Chef: California.” He owns Toups’ Meatery on North Carrollton Avenue and Toups South, located inside the Southern Food and Beverage Museum on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.
“I love to eat, and I love to cook,” he said. “If you don’t love it, you need to not do it. The hours are long and the money sucks. You’d have to be sick to do this job. I guess that makes me a food psychopath.”
And finally, I shared the story of young seventh grader Shelbi Varnado — one of this year’s more popular posts — who started her business, Shelbi’s Sassy Treats, for one simple reason: she is passionate about baking. With the money she earns, Varnado said she enjoys an added level of freedom. “It feels great to be in charge,” she said.
From an amusement park in San Antonio, Varnado recently told me, “I’m very thankful for those who supported me in 2019, and I look forward to a great 2020!”
Here’s hoping we all have a prosperous New Year and in the words of Mary Louise Booth, the first editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, “May our feast days be many and our fast days be few.”