The Mules Have Moved North
French Quarter favorite Royal Carriages expands into Covington
The sounds of the French Quarter are distinctive: the sharp tip tapping of drumsticks on plastic buckets, the Dixieland melodies played in front of Cafe Du Monde, the bells of St. Louis Cathedral, the calliope music coming from the Steamboat Natchez and the clip clop of mules’ hooves on cobblestone streets.
Now, that clip clop will also be heard across the lake as Royal Carriages, the nation’s oldest carriage company, has expanded to Louisiana’s Northshore. The 80-year-old company, best known for its mule-drawn historical tours in New Orleans’ French Quarter and Marigny neighborhoods, is now offering sightseeing tours in Covington’s Downtown Historic District.
“Covington’s rich history, beautiful architecture and laidback vibes make it an ideal destination partner for Royal Carriages,” says Royal Carriages Director of Marketing Kimmie Carlos. “We are thrilled to bring a favorite New Orleans tradition to Covington.”
Royal Carriages is currently operating two carriages in Covington each week fro Friday through Sunday, with plans to expand to other Northshore municipalities in the near future. The company also plans to launch private tours, as well as wedding and event packages in the coming months.
Each carriage holds a maximum of eight guests. Rides depart from the Marsolan Feed and Seed Store next to the Covington Trailhead Museum. During the 30-minute tour, patrons see the area’s most popular historical sites and learn about the city’s history. Some of the tour highlights include the Tammany Trace, Covington Cemetery #1, Bogue Falaya Park, The Star Theatre and The Southern Hotel.
Since its founding in 1941, Royal Carriages has remained a family-owned and -operated business. Now run by James Lauga, Jr. – a grandson of the original founders – Royal Carriages has continued to grow steadily into a full-service carriage company employing more than 45 team members and stabling a like number of young draft mules.
In the beginning, most companies in the New Orleans carriage industry used retired racehorses from the Fairgrounds. But in 1972, Jim Lauga, Sr. saw an article about a stable in Tennessee that sold most of its mules to companies offering Grand Canyon trail tours. Lauga took a trip to investigate the stable owned by Dick Reese, and he liked what he saw. Shortly after that visit, six sorrel draft mules were shipped to Royal Carriages and mules have exclusively clip clopped for the company ever since.
Royal Carriages’ main farm is headquartered in Covington. The company stables about 34 mules in New Orleans and the remaining are kept on pasture. All of the company’s mules receive at least three months of vacation per year at the company’s Covington or Poplarville farms.
“All of our mules are cherished, loved and respected for what they are capable of and what they do for us,” says Lauga. “Our customers always enjoy seeing and learning about the strong bonds between our drivers and their four-legged partners.
Lauga believes what makes their business a leader in the industry is the fact that Royal Carriages is a family-run business.
“Our team members and our mules are like family to us,” he says. “Every aspect of our operation reflects our love for what we do, and the great pride we take in our business.”