Historic Downtown Hammond, Part 1: The Farmer’s Market

Train tracks lined with crape myrtles.

Train tracks lined with crape myrtles

Historic downtown Hammond—a living reminder of the small town that existed before Hammond sprung up as a thriving bedroom community between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It’s a place where half the buildings model old brick and trains pass through a tunnel of crape myrtles.

I drove up there with my family and an old friend to spend a Saturday morning on West Thomas Street, which houses several small shops and restaurants. Our main goal for the day was to check out the farmer’s market, which had both fresh produce and local arts & crafts. After a good ten minutes of wrong turns and failures to follow directions from Google Maps (only because we’re directionally challenged), we finally stumbled across West Thomas Street. And as a bonus, it had a good-sized and FREE parking lot waiting for us. (I get excited about free parking lots in downtown areas—something I’m not used to in New Orleans.)Farmers_Market_Sign

 

Entrance to the market

Entrance to the market

Anyway, the farmer’s market was set up right across from the parking lot. It was much smaller than I expected, as it only took five minutes to see all the stands. There were also more art & crafts than produce, which I found surprising. But the market is currently searching for more farmers, so that may change in the future. For more information about contributing, registration forms are available at http://dddhammond.com/Retail/HammondArtsCraftsMarket/tabid/99/Default.aspx.

 

Eggplant and squash from the Poche family.

Eggplant and squash from the Poche family

Despite its size, the market still had things to offer. The Poche Family Farm had a table laden with eggplant, squash, bell pepper, peas, okra, and parsley and basil sprigs. Another table, hosted by Arcola Nursery and Sandra’s All Thumbs Nursery, overflowed with young plants like crape myrtles and moss roses. I only wish I’d seen their table before plant shopping at Home Depot the other week. As for the crafts, Creations by Dianne Kaye sold flip-flops with crocheted straps. There were also several stands selling yard art and jewelry.

Flip-flops from Creations by Dianne Kaye. Look at all the colors!

Flip-flops from Creations by Dianne Kaye. Look at all the colors!

But for me, a farmer’s market isn’t just about the products. It’s about the people and the personal interaction you don’t get in a normal grocery store. I talked to Amy and Katie Guilbeau, the mother-daughter team at the Henderson’s Hearth table. They had a variety of things to offer, such as jams, dried herbs (rosemary, spearmint, basil, etc.), and custom recipe mixes (soups, scones, bread etc.) They may have been there to sell, but chatting with customers seemed important to them. They gave out free samples and made suggestions to personalize their recipe mixes. Once they even disagreed in a typical mother-daughter fashion over whether jalapenos and chilies would be good additions to their scone recipe. In the end, we bought a split pea and lentil soup mix, called Henderson soup, after enjoying a friendly chat.

Amy and Katie Guilbeau of Henderson’s Hearth

Amy and Katie Guilbeau of Henderson’s Hearth

For anyone who would like to visit, the market is open every Saturday morning from 8:00-12:00. The vendors attending vary from weekend to weekend, but the market’s Facebook page tells you who will be showing up each week. You can check it out at https://www.facebook.com/HammondFarmersMarket.

After you’ve finished browsing the farmer’s market, there are many antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants to check out in historic downtown Hammond. For more, check out my next blog coming soon!

Riverwalk = Shopping Fix

The Outside View

The Outside View

I’ve been visiting the Riverwalk since my stroller days, when throwing pennies into the fountain was enough entertainment for hours. Now, twenty-three years later, I still enjoy parking at the Hilton and walking along the Mississippi River shoreline. (And maybe feeding a coin to the fountain, just for old times sake.) Though a lot has stayed the same, some things have changed. The old Riverwalk Marketplace re-opened on May 22nd as the Outlet Collection at the Riverwalk, refurbished with new outlets and food courts. (http://www.riverwalkneworleans.com/) So, as a curious local, I had to check it out.

I won’t lie. Many of the stores are reminiscent of Lakeside Shopping Mall in Metairie, including places like Aeropostale, Guess, Gap, Forever 21, Claire’s, and even Café du Monde. Yet many of shops are factory stores, and lower prices on brand names may be worth the drive downtown. Plus, with the French Quarter and Audubon Aquarium so close by, the Outlet Collection would add to your “girls’ day out.”

A peek inside A Simpler Time.

A peek inside A Simpler Time.

Despite similarities to Lakeside, the Riverwalk has several gems that make it stand out. One store, called A Simpler Time, is dedicated to vintage items from the 1920’s-1940’s. My first impressions included a sign made from an old washing board and the song “In the Mood” playing in the background. Selling everything from wrought-iron Fleur de Lis, classic children’s books (ex. What Little Girls are Made Of), to model boats, the store provides a nice break from sleek and shiny retail stores. For more, check out http://www.asimplertime.com.

So many colors!

So many colors!

However, my favorite was the Wilsons Leather Outlet. I admit, leather is one of my weak points, but when good quality is coupled with low prices…well, it’s hard to say no. The outlet boasts many styles for both men and women, and for the women, many colors too. Faux leather, or “vegan leather” as the saleslady put it, was marked down as low as $49.99. The real leather, of course, was more expensive, but most jackets were still below $200. With such good deals, I walked out with two faux leather jackets—one in turquoise and the other in cobalt blue. After a second discount was deducted, I paid only $38 for each jacket!

The men's wrack.

The men’s wrack.

The mall also has several kid-friendly places, such as Gymboree, IT’SUGAR, and Gumbo Toys. Or, for the mom with a day off, there’s Avalon Salon & Spa. Bottom line, if you’re just out to buy what you need and leave, the mall isn’t for you. But if you plan to make a day of it and spend some time at surrounding attractions, then the new Outlet Collection can make a fun addition to your day downtown!