History of New Orleans Corner Stores
New Orleans corner stores have a long and rich history dating back to the 19th ce ntury. In the early days, these stores were called “mom and pop” stores and were run by families who lived above the shops.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, immigrants from Italy, Germany, and Greece began to open these small neighborhood stores throughout New Orleans. They offered a variety of goods including fresh produce, meats, household items, soft drinks, and beer. The rise of automobile ownership in the city led to the proliferation of these corner stores as they served as convenient pit stops for motorists.
During the 20th century, corner stores became an integral part of New Orleans’ social and cultural fabric. They served as places where neighbors could gather, catch up on the latest news, and socialize. Many corner stores were open 24 hours a day, providing a sense of security and community for residents who needed access to essential goods and services at all hours.
Today, despite the rise of larger grocery chains and online shopping, corner stores continue to play an important role in New Orleans’ neighborhoods by providing a quick and convenient option for residents to purchase essentials and supporting the local economy.
My Corner Store Experience
This may come with some backlash, but when I was a little girl, maybe ten years old, I first brought liquor and loose cigarettes from the corner store. The items weren’t for me but for a nameless adult who will remain anonymous because I’m still the child. That person will still whip me behind. As children back in the day, we could purchase these products for adults from the corner store with or without a note, and I always had a note. I remember being told to make sure the loose cigarettes were in their bag and not to crush them or put the cigarettes on my lips, but I could pretend to smoke had I chosen to buy candy cigarettes with the coins that came with running errands.
The days of sending your kid to the store for adult beverages and cigarettes have been banished long ago, but that relationship still exists. Corner store owners and New Orleanians have a type of business friendship. There’s a defiant bond between the two families. If the owners and workers of the corner store didn’t know you, there’s a chance you were new to the neighborhood, or you’re a tourist who took the advice of a local.
The relationship between the owners had its benefits, and each could assist the other. Unlike the supermarket chains where you have a line of impatient customers and a cashier who has your items bagged up while digging through your pocketbook for your wallet that you left at home, you are left with putting your things back. If that same situation had happened at the corner store, where you’re a regular customer, the owner would have let you take your items because he knows you would return to pay your bill. Then there are the times when you may not have any money, and the owner will allow you to run a tab until your pay date. This trust, this bond, secures the owner from a loyal customer who will look out for the store in general, such as if it is being robbed.
As with any corner, there may be a homeless-looking person or a wine hanging out at the corner store, and if you wondered why a broom-toting owner doesn’t run them off, let me tell you. That so-called bum will be the first person to help the store owner and those walking past him. The same person to ask for spare change has been the same person to tell me I dropped my money. Do not allow judgment to keep you from spending time with these small business owners.
Corner Store Shopping
The corner store may run you a dollar or so extra for personal items, but the bread and butter of the corner store are just that, food, and you will not only save, but you will get some authentic New Orleans food from that tiny little kitchen. A typical corner store will have a meat department offering meat specials that may last weeks, depending on the package.
The reason why I highly recommend certain corner stores is the cook that works the kitchen cooking the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner that will have you never cooking again, because the food is not only delicious, but it’s very affordable, damn near cheap and the cooks are so heavy-handed. Two people and a kid can eat off a dinner plate, especially if it comes from Ms. Vernadine’s Kitchen at Jack’s Meat Market.
Hot Sausage, Egg, and Cheese PoBoy
If you’re a native of New Orleans and have $3 to your name, you can get a breakfast plate of hot creamy grits, eggs, and a choice of meat. I always select hot sausage, oh, and a cold drink too. On average, a cold po-boy costs $2.99+, and a hot po-boy $4.99+, depending on the choice of meat or seafood. I wonder if I need to explain the difference between a hot and cold po-by. The lunch and dinner plate will average about $7.00, and it’s not the prices that should have you leaving the tourist trap, but the flavors of a NOLA Auntie or Mama cooking her butt off because she loves it, and the corner store allows her to feel as if she has her kitchen.
Another plus to going where the locals go is you can get the best, and when I say best, I mean it, but the best “Boiled Seafood” is done in our neighborhoods. You can walk up to a seafood boil and eat and drink without worrying about a bill. Everyone eats who stops by, but the following best is the corner stores such as Cajun’s. If you’re not a New Orleanian, you may not care about the price of crawfish, but we care!! Crawfish hit $7.99/lb, and we damn near withdrew because we refused to spend $20 on 2 1/2lb of crawfish. That’s not enough to satisfy the taste buds of a 5yrs old. But the prices went back to normal, well, not the normal of back in the day of $1.99/lb, but a suitable medium. To get the best-boiled seafood, it’s an absolute must leave the tourist area. You can eat all the raw oysters you want in the Quarter. I recommend Felix’s and Acme, but for “boiled seafood,” take a nice walk or ride and eat the good stuff.
Outside of food and the pricey household item, you can pay for the phone and utility bills, buy a phone, a fresh white t-shirt, cigarettes, knock-off sunglasses, fake jewelry, and so on. Most have ATMs and check cashing services. Let’s not forget about gas, and you can fill up your tank and belly all in one stop.
If you haven’t noticed, there aren’t many liquor stores in New Orleans. Therefore except for a few Walgreens, all corner stores, convenience stores, gas stations, and grocery stores, well, all the stores sell liquor, beer, and wine. There are specials, too. You can get two 16oz Bud Light Beers for $3, 2 for $5, Absolute half pints, and a personal bottle of Moet. The stores in New Orleans will have what my Papa would call a “taste.” I loved to eat even as a little girl, and I overheard my Papa tell my Mama, “pour me a lil taste,” and I came running into the kitchen saying I wanted a taste too. But in my defense, he used to make the best alcohol. I wish I could have a big old taste right now, and I would add a lil taste to it too. lmbo
Eat like a local at the Corner Store
It’s an excellent thing to go off Canal Street and go past the French Quarters to get not only a deal, but you can get to spend your money within our communities. Plus, You will be able to experience New Orleans!
I highly recommend coming into the community, stopping in a corner store or gas station, ordering a po-boy and a few pounds of crawfish and grabbing a couple of beers, going back to the Quarters, going on the levee, and enjoying your good eats and beautiful scenery. Don’t forget a newspaper and napkins…
This is a bucket list activity, it’s a must and I’ll even ask you to do it for me, please. Stop buying a $15 po-boy that you can get for $5 off Canal Street. Just because you’re staying in the French Quarter doesn’t mean you can’t go off the beaten path to eat like a local. I guarantee you will not regret it.
As I mention, the locals and the owners of the corner stores, well, small businesses in New Orleans have a relationship and depend on each other for their livelihood. Your support can assist in making those ends of lack meet.
Corner Stores: All the good spots are around it! Come into our neighborhoods!
If you’re worried about the “Wine-O” or destitute hanging on the corner, please know they will not rob. They may ask for a lil change but don’t worry; you are safe. If you need more reassurance, let me add that when contacting someone you may feel uncomfortable with while traveling, such as panhandlers 1st, acknowledge them, always speak to everyone in New Orleans, and give eye contact. This shows respect for human life and that you aren’t too high on your pedestal to say “Hey, Hello,” but a good reply would be, “Man, I’m sorry I just spent my last, I’m sorry I don’t have it, or I was about to ask you for $1. You will walk off laughing, and the panhandler will be grateful for the acknowledgment.
Here are a few of the famous and historic corner stores in New Orleans that have been serving their communities for generations. A few that are within walking distance from the French Quarters:
1. Circle Food Store
2. Schiro’s Market
3. Hank’s Supermarket
4. Zara’s Lil’ Giant Supermarket
5. Jack’s Meat Market and Deli
6. Gene’s Po-Boys and Deli
7. G and B Grocery
8. Young’s Confectionery
9. Simone’s Market
10. Robért Fresh Market
- Brother’s Fried Chicken 222 Carondelet St., New Orleans, LA.
Brothers chicken in New Orleans has some of the best chicken I ever tasted. I can’t believe it’s cooked at corner store or gas station . Where else can you grab a two-piece chicken, fries, and a drink for $4.99 and a 40-piece for $16.99? Ya gotta love it!
- Basin St. Supermarket
237 Basin St, New Orleans, LA 70112 (504) 522-7947
- Brown Derby
3402 Tulane Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119 Phone number(504) 484-0900
People are sure what to expect from a gas station/ convenience store, but this place is all that and a bag, well, a plate of some good ole southern food. You can get meat and two sides for lunch and finish it for dinner. And it isn’t more than $8, plus you get a drink to go with it!
- Verdi Mart
1201 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116
This longtime market & deli is known for Creole-inspired sandwiches, entrees & sides. The All that Jazz PoBoy is a local and tourist favorite.
Note: Open 24hrs, take out and cash only. Service can be slow when crowded.
- Mardi Gras Zone
A great little Neighborhood Market that has a variety of goods, including hot fresh food and cold deli food as well as some Mardi Gras supplies.
- Jack’s Meat Market
2279 N Derbigny St, New Orleans, LA 70117
- Triangle Deli