In 1910, Harry Offner opened his first hardware shop on South Rampart Street in downtown New Orleans, setting the foundation for a local network of three retail stores with more than 27,000 items in stock and 90,000 more available through catalogs or the Ace Hardware website. Like a treasured heirloom or the gene for double-jointed elbows, the business has passed through three generations as Harry's grandkids currently mind the store to help homeowners and handy folks find cleaning and painting supplies, lawn-care implements, housewares, and tools from well-known brands. The knowledgeable staff also assists shoppers with a variety of services, from cutting keys and threading pipes to minor household repair jobs performed by licensed and insured handymen.
Farrell-Calhoun Paint’s premium lacquers upgrade the appearance and resilience of abodes, both inside and out. Residents can refurbish timeworn walls or ceilings with interior flat paint ($33.60+/gal.), a low-odor pigment that ably covers plaster, wallboard, and masonry surfaces and hides scuff marks left from unexpected visits by the Kool-Aid man. Exterior flat paint ($45.64+/gal.) swathes outer walls in a protective coating concocted to retain color and ward off blisters through the harshest weather. Drawing inspiration from historic New England abodes and Abraham Lincoln's favorite crayon, Historic Colors of America dress residences in the classic hues of historic times.
Mike’s Hardware's second-generation home-improvement gurus have been helping handymen plumb, paint, and re-wire for nearly thirty years. A veritable toolbox for home improvers, Mike’s extensive product list includes hardware classics, such as locks and fasteners, as well as more obscure items, such as hard-to-find faucet parts and the mystical drill press of Arabia. Embrace odd jobs with the 6-in-1 Enderes screwdriver ($4.79) and buck up blunt blades with the [AccuSharp] (http://www.accusharp.com/) knife and tool sharpener ($9.99). Yard fanatics and ex-entomologists seeking revenge can take up arms with Kill-A-Bug concentrate ($14.95/8 oz.), and garden guardians can whack encroaching weeds and giant-enraging beanstalks with trimmer line ($2.39/40' roll). In addition to heaps of tools and household supplies, Mike’s carries bagged goods including sand, gravel, and concrete, which may come in handy for setting backyard basketball poles or encasing mobster shoes for posterity.
With spring spreading like a bag of spilled gravy, now is the ideal time to throw open the windows and get home-care projects underway. Pick up a Steel Grip six-piece screwdriver set for $8.49 and a whole bunch of screws, anchors, and bolts (prices vary), and you'll be ready to finally mount every buffalo nickel and steel penny in your coin collection. If you need to match paint to a favorite coverlet or choose a hue that complements a pleather recliner, each store offers a paint-matching service free of charge. Get keys made for $1.99 a pop, or clean a barnacle-encrusted carpet with the help of a carpet-cleaning machine ($30 a day to rent).
Original slave cabins are just one of the historical sites that groups explore during tours of St. Joseph Plantation, a working sugar-cane plantation built in 1830 that shares a fence line with neighboring Oak Alley Plantation. A schoolhouse, a blacksmith's shop, and many other structures reveal the workings of day-to-day life in the 19th century. Relatives of the family that has owned the property for more than 135 years guide many of the tours, peppering excursions with tidbits of history such as details about the childhood of plantation son and famed architect H.H. Richardson.
Each spring, Frisco Fest welcomes more than 100 Louisiana crafters and artists to the picturesque grounds of the San Francisco Plantation, creating a unique environment where regional history and modern creativity converge. Setting up shop in the shadow of centuries-old live oaks, participants peddle everything from handmade jewelry and pottery to homemade jams, and master gardeners host plant-advice clinics to impart tips to green thumbs looking to revive once-lush landscapes or get their azaleas accepted into a private college.
Each year, activities that occupy the big curiosity and little hands of children abound, such as pony rides, petting zoos, and rock climbing, and adults detour from the crafty wares long enough to enjoy a classic-car show and live music by Leroy St. Pierre. Local chefs sizzle up piquant piles of Cajun and creole cuisine to tempt artistic appetites of all ages, and competitive appetites are twice-satisfied during a Chef's cook-off and cracklin contest.