The Kitchen Witch
After years of writing about square footage, profit margins, capital gains and industry trends, I’ve come to the realization that what I love most about business writing is meeting small business owners, owners who choose the many challenges of operating their own, often times, very small businesses. And, what really intrigues me are those who choose their passion over profits.
A great example of this is The Kitchen Witch, owned by Philippe LaMancusa and Debbie Lindsey. The two have yet to take a paycheck and are thrilled that their beloved store at least pays for itself. Started in 1999, the store offers new, used, rare and out-of-print cookbooks, vintage aprons, copper cookware, rolling pins, original artwork, classical music, homemade vanilla extract, their own blended seasonings, expert advice and warmth.
“We are uniquely New Orleans,” says the ever-ebullient Lindsey. “Come for the weirdness, the expertise from Philippe, our complimentary culinary consultant, and come for the love. You can always go to Amazon, but you won’t get a hug.”
LaMancusa is a retired chef who has 50 years of culinary experience. Upon retirement, he was persuaded to take his 5,000 cookbooks, that he lovingly collected over the years, and open a bookstore.
The first Kitchen Witch opened on Toulouse Street in the French Quarter, but when rent was raised by 115 percent ($4,500 per month) the owners knew it was time for a change. So a little over a year ago they moved to Mid-City into a 2,500 square-foot store on Broad Street.
“We lost the traffic of the Quarter but we now create our own traffic with book signings, food pop ups and happy hours. We also belong to all the neighborhood associations. We are tapped into neighborhood and we love it.”
“And parking!," Lindsey adds. "Now we have lots of wonderful free parking.”
Many of their clients followed them or fervidly sought them out. The Saturday I visited the couple were chatting with past clients from London and Toronto.
“It was first on my list of things to do on this visit to New Orleans,” says Sue Franklin from Toronto. “I came for the spices and to buy a cookbook for my grandson.”
My favorite cookbook is the "Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm Cookbook," with delightfully nostalgic illustrations by Erik Blegvad. It is very far from pristine condition but I love it.
“I often seek out used books because they are full of handwritten notes, clippings, smudges and chocolate stains,” LaMancusa says. “On the dirtiest page of the dirtiest books, you’ll find the best recipes.”
1452 N. Broad St.