Nicaud became the first known coffee vendor in New Orleans. Rose, a slave, saw the opportunity to provide a service to French Market vendors, workers and shoppers by providing them with fresh, hot coffee. Rose created a portable cart which she pushed through the market on Sundays, selling “cafe noir ou cafe au lait”. Her entrepreneurial efforts were a quick success. One customer is quoted to have said, “Her coffee is like the benediction that follows after prayer”.
It is likely that Rose provided the majority of her earnings from the day’s sales to her owner, as this was the typical arrangement. She saved the portion she was allowed to keep until she had enough to buy her freedom. Rose’s earliest customers stood next to her cart to drink their coffee. Later, she created a permanent stand in the Market, and her customers were provided with seating. Rose’s success inspired dozens of other women of color, who sold coffee from small portable stands.
In the 19th and early 20th century, many resourceful women of color in New Orleans made their living and supported their families by selling coffee, pralines, calas and other food and drink in the French Market and on the streets of the city’s old neighborhoods. They were known as Les Vendeuses.
Cafe Rose Nicaud is dedicated to the memory of Rose Nicaud and her pioneering success as a lead ing entrepreneur whose resourceful spirit and extraordinary efforts continue to inspire us today.