French children’s books. Rare, local cookbooks. Novels set in the muggy air of Louisiana. All of these tomes line the blonde wood shelves at Blue Cypress Books, home to a trove of more than 12,000 new and high-quality secondhand books. Gathered by the owner and chief bookkeeper, the store’s selection runs the gamut from New York Times bestselling paperbacks to antiquarian sets kept in slipcase in order to guard against spilling coffee or liquid nitrogen on their leather covers. The resident gray-and-white tabby cat, Kitty Meow, lounges amid browsers as they peek at the affordable prices penciled on the inside pages of an extensive youth collection.
Something always seems to be happening at Blue Cypress, too. Children's book readings captivate little ones, and author signings let guests hobnob with professional wordsmiths. The shop also hosts performances of local music as well as monthly book-club meetings, during which locals share favorite recipes for broiling mystery novels.
The staff at Alltmont's Fine Custom Framing works with clients to devise unique combinations of frames and archival materials to protect photos, paintings, portraits, and memorabilia. Under the direction of expert framer Jeff Alltmont, Alltmont's Fine Custom Framing encloses wall hangings of all types in elegant, expertly crafted edgings. Within a large, bright workshop and retail space, customers peruse thousands of frame samples that adorn the walls in a single-file parade of right angles, displaying all available custom-frame colors, styles, and sizes. The friendly craftspersons at Alltmont's Fine Custom Framing obligingly advise customers in the process of designing the frame that gives their picture the snazziest hug, including custom mirrors, cork, and chalkboards. Each piece of Alltmont's handiwork is specially fitted to the specific treasure it houses, whether priceless works of art, pride-inducing diplomas and awards, or prized Vincent van Gogh Super Bowl jerseys.
Since 1964, Maple Street Book Shops have fueled local imaginations with novels and nonfiction works by classic, contemporary, and local writers. Originally "five rooms of paperbacks," the store now has four locations, including two charming, side-by-side establishments on the shop’s titular residential street. Here, a purple and green cottage houses a collection of 9,000 used tomes, and next door, the pink house sells the sweet perfume wrung from glossy new paperbacks. In addition to browsing the crowded shelves and chatting with the knowledgeable staff of one-time teachers, writers, and printmakers, visitors can chat with authors at sociable events.
The vibrant mural stretching across the side of National Art & Hobby’s building serves as a symbol of the creativity-fueling items held inside. The shop’s cozy interior is packed with shelves of fine art materials, craft supplies, and jewelry-making equipment, as well as an extensive collection of glitter, sequins, rhinestones, and feathers often used by local Mardi Gras Indians to decorate their ornate costumes. Owner Nat Ward and a friendly staff stand by to answer customers' questions and shed artistic advice, from product suggestions to thoughts on which nontoxic paste is the tastiest.
Bursting from the retro ambience of a refurbished art-deco movie theater, the renowned hand-blown-glass art studio boasts a multihued array of gaffer-made accoutrements. Keep wine from escaping on a post-party spree with a decorative bottlestopper ($62), a hand-crafted sculpture complete with elegant metal fitting designed to hold in liquid and libation secrets. Showcase seasonal candies or secret-admirer notes in a fluted dish ($65), available in intricate designs of blue, salmon, white, and more. The New Orleans paperweight adds personality to desks and gravity to astronaut homework with the classic Big Easy fleur de lis etched in a heart shape atop a round paper anchor ($50). For a romantic shimmer, check out the pointed oil candle with a stand, a teardrop-shaped candle perched in a three-pronged mini-tripod that imbues romance with long-lasting light ($50), similar to a triple showing of Gremlins under an Alaskan summer sky.
Catering to the French Quarter since 1929, Bottom of the Cup Tea Room invites visitors to breathe in the soothing flavors of more than 100 fair-trade-certified tea-leaf varieties while peeking into their future via tarot cards, palm readings, and more. Sold in 4-ounce and 1-pound quantities, the shop's tea leaves invoke flavors from around the world, from the fruity aroma of the Bourbon Street vanilla rooibos or plum-pear ceylon teas to the lively spark of the indian spiced chai (all $9.98/4-ounce package). The formosa oolong tea ($19.98/4-ounce package) blends the slightly toasty taste of semifermented leaves with a dash of dry sweetness, ideal for breakfast or for filling up one's dunk tank.