Maison Blanche tire store on Airline Highway in Metairie.
Maison Blanche tire store
The “Greatest Store South,” Maison Blanche operated a Tire Store at 1920 Airline Highway, in Metairie, from the late 1950s to the 1970s. The store was in between the store at S. Carrollton and Tulane (where Airline Highway began) and the Airline Village store, a couple of blocks further up the road. The photo is from Franck Studios, via the HNOC. It was shot on 17-October-1960.
The big-name department stores included auto service and tire sales in their portfolios. In addition to Maison Blanche, D. H. Holmes, Krauss, and Sears all offered auto service. While the draw to downtown customers was get the car serviced while shopping, the stores offered local convenience to suburban New Orleans.
What attracted customers to the department stores for auto service was credit. Your MB tire purchases could be charged to your MB account. Same for the other stores. At a time where there were no bank cards like VISA and MasterCard, this was important. Tires weren’t cheap, and the department stores set up payment plans for their customers. This built loyalty to the store.
The department store-owned auto service stores began to fade out in the 1980s. By the 1990s, only Sears operated an auto center, next to their store in Clearview Mall in Metairie. Goodyear and Firestone expanded their chains, and Walmart entered the market. The Sears auto center at Clearview remained until 2019. Sears closed both the department store in the mall, as well as the auto center. The mall demolished the auto center. A branch of Regions bank now stands in its place.
1960s Airline Highway
Airline Highway is US 61, which connects New Orleans to Baton Rouge and points west. Prior to the construction of I-10, Airline Highway was the main route to the state’s capital city. As Metairie grew, so did retail outlets like MB and the tire store. A billboard for Brennan’s Restaurant stands behind a Mobil Oil gas station, with the company’s well-known red Pegasus sign.
Pumping Station 6 drains 17th Street Canal.
Pumping Station 6
Drawings from Historic American Building Survey LA-1235, Pumping Station 6, Orpheum and Hyacinth Streets. This pumping station spans the 17th Street Canal, just north of Metairie Road. Built in 1899, it’s the oldest station in service today. Wood-screw pumps designed by A. Baldwin Wood replaced the original pumps in the early 1900s.
The 17th Street Canal
The 17th Street Canal separates Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, from just south of Metairie Road to Lake Pontchartrain. The city changed the name of 17th Street to Palmetto Street in 1894. While the street changed, the name of the canal stuck.
The 17th Street Canal connected several Orleans Parish drainage canals to Lake Pontchartrain. Pumping Station 6 sits just north of Metairie Road because the land beyond the station was essentially undeveloped. Canals in Uptown and Uptown-backatown drained into 17th Street. Water accumulated in the station’s intake basin. The pumps pushed water further along the canal, out to the lake.
Evolution over time
While this design made sense in 1899, growth on both sides of the 17th Street Canal presented complications. Pumping Station 6 kept the water in the canal flowing, but it wasn’t able to lower water levels north towards the lake. Additionally, residents of Bucktown on the Jefferson Parish Side of the canal resisted changes at the lake end. A small fishing community developed along the canal. Those fishermen provided seafood to restaurants and shops in Bucktown and West End. Construction of a new pumping station would close access to the lake from the canal.
So, by 2005, the 1899 design failed to properly defend neighborhoods north of Pumping Station 6 from flooding. Water levels in the canal rose. The US Army Corps of Engineers built higher levees. Since there was insufficient easements to further raise the levee height, USACE build floodwalls. When Hurricane Katrina forced water from the lake into the canal, the floodwall gave way, drowning most of Lakeview and a significant portion of Mid-City.
The Historic American Building Survey series provides a valuable service. There are a number of HABS sets available for buildings and other structures in and around New Orleans.
JC Ellis Memories of my elementary school days.
JC Ellis Memories
I’ve been working on de-cluttering my home office this week. In the back of my desk drawer, I found a ziplok bag with a bunch of stuff from my childhood. Boy Scout medals and patches, assorted pins and buttons, etc. I pulled out a button from J. C. Ellis Elementary School in #themetrys. I attended J. C. Ellis (after Kindergarten at Kehoe-France in 1963-64) for grades 1-4, 1964 to 1968. Momma moved my sister and I from Ellis to St. Angela Merici for the 68-69 school year. She felt that attending Catholic school would improve our chances of getting into Catholic high schools. Keep in mind, this was peak baby boom, and acceptance into those schools (Brother Martin for me, Archbishop Chapelle for my sister) wasn’t a given.
Private to Public to Catholic
Jefferson Parish Public Schools didn’t offer Kindergarten back in the day. So, my parents sent me to Kehoe-France. While we lived in the area for Metairie Grammar School on Metairie Road, my mom, the late Anne Finicle Branley, was principal at Ellis. Therefore, she brought me to her school. I don’t recall much in the way of privilege by being the principal’s kid. In fact, I don’t remember seeing my mom much during the school day. After class ended, I went over to the library to wait for her to go home. I read encyclopedias. Yeah, I was that kid.
I don’t recall specifically why I received this award button. At first I thought it was for Safety Patrol, but I didn’t do that until fifth grade at St. Angela. So, I’m stumped on the details. Even though Ellis had a Cub Scout pack, I joined the pack at Mulholland Memorial Methodist on Metairie Road. Momma was adamant about not mixing work and family. She didn’t want to have to talk to Ellis parents outside of work. I did Boy Scouts at St. Angela.
Ellis is still there more
My JC Ellis Memories come back when I’m in the school’s neighborhood. That’s relatively frequent, since I shop regularly at Martin Wine Cellar. That store is the old Sena Mall movie theater. While many of the businesses on Veterans Blvd. changed, go one block back on Brockenbraugh Court, and Ellis is still rolling. I’ve been thinking about my mom and her years of work in the parish public school system. I don’t think she would approve of the rush to return to school in the face of the novel coronavirus.
JC Restaurant and Bar, 601 Veterans in #themetrys (x-posted to YatCuisine)
JC Restaurant, 601 Veterans in Metairie, 1960. Franck Studios photo.
This restaurant was located at 601 Veterans Boulevard, in Metairie. This Franck Studios photo, shot on 9-January-1960, shows how this main drag of Metairie was still sparsely-developed. The appeal to a businessman like J.C. Landry (the namesake of JC Restaurant) was inexpensive property that was still close to Lakeview. Dorignac’s and Zuppardo’s supermarkets were still empty lots on Vets.
Getting to Metairie from Mid-City wasn’t all that hard, either, since one could hop onto the Pontchartrain Expressway at City Park Avenue.
YatCuisine’s copy of the New Orleans Underground Gormet by Dr. Richard H. Collin
I posted this photo as part of my regular social media sharing earlier this week. I remember eating at this place once or twice as a kid, but those fifty-year old memories are fuzzy. So, I pulled out The New Orleans Underground Gourmet, written in 1970 by Dr. Richard Collin of UNO. This restaurant guide was our bible as high school and college students in the mid-late 1970s. Dr. Collin followed up this book with his New Orleans Restaurant Guide, written with his wife, Dr. Rima Drell Reck (Professor of Comparative Literature at UNO), in 1977. A second edition was published in 1982.
Collin on JC Restaurant
Here’s Dr. Collin’s entry for JC Restaurant in The New Orleans Underground Gourmet:
One would never think upon seeing the JC Restaurant and Lounge from a crowded suburban shopping highway that this was anything but an ordinary tawry hash house with a large bar. Yet some of the best and cheapest food in the city is served at the JC in comfortable if far from elegant surroundings. The prices at the JC for quality food are remarkable, especially on the bargain nights, Wednesday for Family Chicken Night and Thursday for Beef Night. On Wednesday, five superb chicken dinners are featured at $1.85 each ($1.10 for children). This is not simple fried chicken but chicken Clemenceau, chicken Valentino (with shredded ham), chicken Chasseur (a brown sauce with garlic), chicken Marengo, and chicken Bordelaise, an old garlicky New Orleans favorite (all recommended).
J.C. Lambert, the JC of the restaurant’s name, has been serving quality food for ten years and his place seems to get better with age. The dinners are accompanied by an original Mexican coleslaw and excellent vegetables such as black-eyed peas and fried eggplant. The most impressive thing about the JC is its consistency. the a la carte menu is very good and old New Orleans favorites like shrimp remoulade (recommended) and stuffed shrimp (recommended) are excellent.
There is, every weekday except Tuesday, when the restaurant closes, a businessman’s lunch with the same good food and low prices. A recent lunch of chicken livers en brochette (recommended) was first-rate. JC manages to turn out very good versions of the local specialties, both of the less exalted nature and also dinners of a grander style. There is a good bar from the adjoining cocktail lounge and the usual short orders of hamburgers, fried chicken, and sandwiches. Parking is no problem as the restaurant has plenty of free parking. JC is a good example of a restaurant without frills or fanfare serving distinctive and distinguished food at very low prices.
I need to make those chicken dishes!
Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket opens new, expanded store in #themetrys!
(x-posted to YatCuisine)
Economical Supermarket, on Elysian Fields and Gentilly, in the 1950s. (Zuppardo’s photo)
Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket – My grocery
I’ve been going to Zuppardo’s Supermarket, either the old store on Elysian Fields and Gentilly, or the Metairie store at Veterans and Transcontinental, since I was a kid. That’s going back to the days when the Gentilly neighborhood had an incredible number of groceries and supermarkets.
Replica of Anthony Leo Zuppardo’s banana cart from the early 1900s at the new Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket. (Edward Branley photo)
Peter Zuppardo came to New Orleans from Sicily in 1895. He took a job in the wholesale banana business. His son, Anthony Leo, saw an opportunity with over-ripe bananas. Anthony took those bananas around in a donkey cart. By 1930, the Zuppardo’s parked a truck at Gentilly Road at Elysian Fields. At that time, Elysian Fields Avenue was just a dirt road. The Pontchartrain Railroad closed in 1931, and Elysian Fields wasn’t paved until the end of the decade.
The Zuppardo’s bought the lot on that corner, establishing a permanent presence. The fruit truck expanded into a store in 1937. Those were the waning days of the city’s public market system. That system gave way to private stores after the war. The family made a good decision, as the neighborhood grew. After World War II, Gentilly’s population exploded, as men returning from the war looked to start their own families.Those strong ties helped Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket in later years, in their expansion to Metairie.
Bell Supermarkets newspaper ad from the 1950s (courtesy NOLA.com)
Economical became part of the Bell supermarket co-op. The idea was for independent grocers to join together to better advertise their stores. This was important, because John Schwegmann’s “giant” supermarkets became incredibly popular in the 1950s. Stores such as Economical, Dorignac’s uptown, and Pap’s in the Ninth Ward all sported the Bell logo.
Economical continued its popularity into the 1960s. That was my first personal experience with the store. My momma grew up in Gentilly, on Lavender Street, just off of Franklin Avenue. She and her grandmother made groceries at Economical. Even though my parents moved out to #themetrys when they came back from Boston in 1960, we’d still go out to see my grandma regularly, and I’d tag along for grocery runs.
Expansion and Re-location
Aerial view of Elysian Fields and Gentilly, 1961. Hebrew Rest Cemetery is middle-left. Cor Jesu High is across from the cemetery. Economical Supermarket is to the right edge, below Gentilly Blvd. (NOPL photo)
The Bell supermarkets expanded and re-located as population shifted. The Papania’s opened a “Pap’s” store on Mirabeau and St. Anthony in Gentilly. Dorignac’s and Zuppardo’s opened stores on Veterans Blvd. in Metairie. Dorignac’s built a store in the 700 block of Vets, near Martin Behrman, while the Zuppardo’s opened their Metairie location at Vets and Transcontinental. My family lived closer to Dorignac’s and Schwegmann’s in the late 1960s, so we shopped there.
I renewed my acquaintance with Economical when started at Brother Martin High School, just up Elysian Fields from the supermarket, in 1971. While we mostly stopped at the local convenience store, d’Mart, we occasionally walked down to Economical for things, particularly when d’Mart employees got annoyed with all of the students coming in. I met one of the current owners, Joey Zuppardo at that time. Joey was Class of 1973, I was 1976, so he was a senior when I was a freshman. (For a full run-down of the Zuppardo family tree, check this 2018 Ann Maloney article on the new supermarket in the Picayune.)
UNO and Redeemer Days
I took many a trip down to Economical with my Lambda Chi Alpha brothers from our house on Elysian Fields near Robert E. Lee in the late 1970s. Even though Ferrara’s was just a two-block walk, the prices were much better for guys on tight budgets, working their way through UNO. After I graduated in 1980, I taught at Redeemer High School on Crescent Street, near St. Frances Xavier Cabrini church. Even though Pap’s was closer to the half-double we rented at the time, I found myself heading back down to Gentilly Boulevard for various items.
Life in St. Ann Parish and Zuppardo’s Supermarket
Scenes from the original store on Vets and Transcontinental (courtesy Zuppardo’s)
In 1986, we moved out to #themetrys, near Clearview and Veterans. While my daddy had soured on Dorignac’s over the years and shopped at Schwegmann’s, Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket at Transcontinental was so close, it became our grocery. My boys grew up coming with me to Zuppardo’s all the time. As they got older, cashiers would ask after them. I’d show photos of them as Brother Martin students and they’d sigh at how time passed. That little boy who pushed a Little Tykes shopping cart, loading it up with things important to him (cookies and fruit roll-ups) is now a Naval officer and submariner.
I’m not sure when they dropped the “Economical” from the name, becoming “Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket.” The original store closed in 2005, as Katrina left the store and all of Gentilly in pretty bad shape. To this day, my wife still says “Economical,” which I attribute to her growing up in Lake Oaks and transferring from the Broad bus line to Elysian Fields, on her way home from Dominican.
The New Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket
Two Saturdays ago, Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket closed. They knocked a hole into the side of the old store and moved everything into the new one. I’ve been an almost-daily grocery shopper for years. When your store is as close (about a mile) as Zuppardo’s is to us, it’s easy to blow off extended menu planning. Most of my “test kitchen” ideas start at Zuppardo’s Supermarket. The new store opened last Wednesday. Those four days drove me crazy, as I ended up at three different supermarkets to get things we usually pick up at Zuppardo’s!
Clothes Horse was a womens clothing chain.
Ad for Clothes Horse from 14-February-1979, in the Loyola Maroon
In 1979, Clothes Horse operated four locations in New Orleans. You shopped at Clothes Horse in Uptown Square (Broadway and River Road), The Plaza at Lake Forest (in Da East), and Village Aurora. My memories of Clothes Horse are from the Metairie location at Clearview Shopping Center.
Lakeside Shopping Center was the first mall in Metairie, opening in 1960. Clearview followed in 1969. The anchor stores were Maison Blanche on the west side and Sears on the opposite end. While Gus Mayer was not as large as those two stores, the womens store at the center entrance was incredibly popular. Clearview offered a number of smaller boutiques and specialty stores, ranging from Clothes Horse to Radio Shack. Katz and Besthoff Drugstores operated a soda fountain in their Clearview store.
Selling Men’s Clothing
I worked at Maison Blanche Clearview, from 1977 to 1980. My experience at the store motivated me to write Maison Blanche Department Stores. Working at the three-story department store was so much fun, particularly since the ratio of female to male employees was so skewed. It was tough some days to get myself up off the front porch of my fraternity’s house in Gentilly and get myself out to Metairie. Once there, though, even the slow nights were enjoyable. There weren’t many food choices in the mall at that time. We would grab something at K&B, or the A&G Cafeteria. Those limited options meant the logical choice was often to eat at home.
Those slow nights offered the opportunity to walk down the mall and meet others. Clothes Horse was not one one of the stores I stopped in regularly. The store catered to young adult women. I could go in and say, I’m shopping for a present for my sister, but otherwise, it’s not like I’d ever be a regular customer. I appreciated that the store drew in the sort of clientele that interested twenty-year old me.
Come on out to Art In The Bend this Saturday, March 9th, and we can chat about MB, Krauss, Clearview, and a whole lot of other topics, as you peruse and buy my books!