Around Town, Family Life, Holidays

Buying For The Store – Three NOLA Shop Owners Give Us An Inside Look

December 1, 2020

How these owners cultivate their shop’s personality and stock just what you want 

Ever walk into a store, stand there in amazement, and think, “I’ve been looking for this everywhere! How did they know?!” Or maybe you thought, “I never knew this existed but it’s perfect for me!” 

We all know that feeling. Somehow our favorite stores each have a unique personality that fits ours and we feel at home there as soon as we walk through their door.  

How do they do it? We asked three local small store owners to give us an inside look into their process and how they shop for you!

Typically, owners “shop at market” several times a year for the wonderful items they stock. Although, this has changed somewhat during COVID times, with people less comfortable with travel and being with others in close spaces.


Bryan Batt, co-proprietor with husband Tom Cianfichi and friend Katy Danos, of Hazelnut on Magazine Street, says, “People will try to say there are certain trends (when buying) but don’t believe that. Katy, Tom, and I go together to market to buy. We don’t leave any stone unturned – some booths will be general appeal, but one or two are wonderful gems. We try to find something that’s really unique and no one else (no other store) will have. And if we all think it’s fantastic, it’s in!”  

Batt explains their process further, “We all have three overrides per show. If two of us don’t want it but one person does, then we talk it out and analyze why it will work (for the store). And you can override the others (for something you really want).  

Hazelnut has been known since the doors opened in 2003 for their chic home design and decorative accessories, and also their wide assortment of Christmas decorations and ornaments. (“I’m a Christmas nut,” says Batt.) Items like the store’s unique French Quarter patio-design toile items and other New Orleans-themed items were very popular especially after Katrina.   

Hazelnut is filled with stylish items that must appeal to each of the owners or it won’t be stocked. And their customers like what the owners like. Batt notes, “But other things we get and think will be huge, and it just sits. And then you get something funny for the hell of it and it’s the huge seller! You just cannot tell. It’s such a diverse city with different tastes, and people here aren’t afraid of color or making a statement,” Batt laughs.  

The three proprietors recognize that when they’re buying and building relationships with their vendors, it’s important to have something that they have an exclusivity on. “Because you don’t want to see the same thing everywhere. Hunt Slonem is a good example. They were supposed to launch at Neiman’s and Bergdorfs and they asked to have us be their exclusive store.” 

Before Coronavirus, the trio used to go to market, sometimes six times a year, three times per season, in New York, Atlanta, and Dallas. Batt laughs, “We have been to Las Vegas, which is fantastic, believe it or not, because they built a huge (market) center.” And yet, with social distancing in 2020, “We didn’t go to market. But we have relationships with vendors, we trust them, and can do our buying online because we know their quality. Although there is nothing like touching, feeling, seeing it.” 

What’s selling at Hazelnut nowadays? Those fabulous Christmas ornaments, of course. And since March, there’s been a run on puzzles and games. “We started with fun, clever, well designed games and then puzzles. And thank god we did! When COVID hit, we couldn’t keep them in stock!” 

Banbury Cross

Monica Roth Forester is now minding the store with her mother Peggy Roth, who started Banbury Cross 25 years ago this January. Banbury Cross has a timeless quality and always been a family-run business. Daughters, daughter-in-laws, nieces, and soon granddaughters have worked hard to make this “small department store” the local go-to resource for children’s attire and accessories.  

Monica remarks, “I grew up with it and went to market with mom. I opened the Baton Rouge location (now closed) and ran it for 13 years while mom was still in New Orleans.” 

These proprietors know their customers, what they like, and what they come back for. And longtime customers have gotten to know the Roth Family’s buying style and so they come back here for certain things consistently, generation after generation.  

Forester laughed, “We buy what we like and we have great taste. Our customers come in and say ‘I like everything!’ Moms shopped here for their young kids and now they (their kids) are coming to us and buying for their new baby. They know and expect the familiarity of us (me, my mom, and my sister-in-law, and so there’s a comfort level.” 

The buying process here is a search for one-of-a-kind things. But they are widely known for their classic styles, starting from when Peggy Roth first opened with her own Banbury Cross designs and slowly started adding things like cardigans, accessories, gift items, and baby/infant day gowns, and so forth. The store then grew and grew. 

Monica notes about the store designs, “We do have our own production done. We have our designs we stick to. They’re simple, timeless styles, ‘classic Banbury pieces,’ that we always have in stock. Like boy’s gingham shorts. Fifty-percent of what we have are our designs. It’s very reassuring for our customers.” 

So what is bought in? The Roth ladies go to market in Dallas twice a year, which works for their shipment time. January is for fall clothes (shipped to the store in July), and August is for the following spring (which arrives at the store in December). 

But it’s also a year round process. Forester says, “I look for new showrooms and on Instagram, and at new companies that pop up. We need to forecast what we think our customers will like and then we determine what’s sold previously. And I take recommendations from our customers. We’re always looking for the next thing!” 

Experience still wins out at Banbury Cross, though. “I’m one of seven kids and we’ve been dressing kids and families for 30 years (before this store opened). And I have four daughters. I like to be different. I tell them (our customers) to trust me and they do!” 


Grace Kaynor and Virginia McCollam are proprietors of Sotre on Magazine Street. This is a high-end gift shop that also is more than a gift shop. They do interior design, have art shows, and sell the work of local and global artists and artisans.

Grace Kaynor is principal of Grace Kaynor Designs, who has clients from coast to coast. “We’re a full service interior design firm where you can come in and get something for the house, but you can also have (to order) blinds done, pillows made, rugs, linens, and more. And yet pick up gifts.”

And while it’s more typical for owners to shop at market, these proprietors “don’t do that anymore.” Notes McCollam, “our focus has changed; so many stores used to copy us. We look for the next thing and do what’s different. And we don’t want to have vendors that someone else will get and then put in their store.”   

More than anything, McCollam considers Sotre “an ambassador for sustainability.” To this point, Kaynor reiterates that they are committed to stocking organic, natural or sustainable goods. “Things that are good for the environment. And we go a step further, like the Lilley Line that we carry. These items are made by women in El Salvador of recycled products. It’s a real cottage industry and a way of giving back ecologically as well.” 

Kaynor also mentions that wherever their goods are made, they must be made sustainably, like the items from Charles Farris of London. “They’ve been in business since 1845 and are the candlemakers to the royal family. All their candles are made from beeswax, the fragrances are natural, and (they use) recycled packaging. We like things that are handmade, even luxury. All the jewelry (we have) is made by hand at a workbench, using original craft methods or lost art methods.” 

Kaynor sums up their store philosophy when she says, “It’s really something that we’re committed to for future generations, and our families and our friends’ children and our planet. When people are getting a gift (from here), they’re giving to their families and the larger world.” 

Photo of Nola Family editor Trevor Wisdom Trevor Wisdom is the Managing Editor of nola family magazine.

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