As we walked along Decatur Street in the Quarter on a recent evening, we thought about our walk through these same streets a little less than five years ago.
Even though the French Quarter had suffered relatively little structural and water damage from Katrina, the hurricane, nevertheless, had a profound effect on this popular area of New Orleans.
Katrina had forced a significant portion of the city’s population to leave the city. (The population plummeted almost 54 percent, from 455,188 in July 2005 to 208,548 a year later, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center.)
It was clear that this population loss had a great impact on one of the city’s main industry—the tourism industry, and especially the restaurant business. With the labor force reduced and the tourist traffic adversely affected, signs on restaurants reading “Open for lunch only” or “Serving dinner on Friday and Saturday only” or, simply, “Closed” were all too common.
With the restaurants and bars open for fewer hours, the other businesses in the Quarter suffered because of the reduced foot traffic. The result was the posting of similar signs in the antique shops, boutiques, and souvenir shops in the Quarter. Sadly, they read: “Moved” or “Call for an Appointment” or “Closed.”
Walking the virtually deserted streets of the Quarter early on a weekday evening during that time was an eerie experience.
With that image in mind, it was especially satisfying to be in the Quarter with the lights of open businesses filling the streets.
The display windows of one particular silversmith shop caught our eye. From the shop’s web page: “New Orleans Silversmiths was established in 1938 in the French Quarter. It specializes in modern and antique gold jewelry, and antique holloware.
(“Their) miniature animal collection is hand crafted in Italy. They are made of sterling silver with hand painted enamel.” Pictured here are just a few of the sterling silver animals in their collection.
The giraffes are in 3 sizes (2-3/4ʺ – 4ʺ tall) and are made of sterling silver and amber colored enamel with rich copper highlights.
The cats (1-1/8" tall to 1-3/8" tall) are made of sterling with hand-painted enamels in oranges and greys.
The hand painted enamel over sterling silver turtle (1-1/4" nose to tail) has a range of deep wheat to rich golden browns.
It is sure wonderful to see the life of the Quarter returning.