The Big Easy has cast its spell over David Garcia with all its magical charms and has rendered him a soul enchanted with the bewitching city.
Is it the madness of Mardi Gras? The allure of black magic and the dark voodoo shops scattered throughout the French Quarter? Or something as sugary and sweet as the powdery beignets of Cafe Du Monde?
If you’ve ever been to NOLA, it’s easy to understand his infatuation.
“It’s the history, the food, the culture and the mysterious energy,” Garcia said of his love of New Orleans. “It’s our favorite city and where Rick [Gipprich Jr.] and I got engaged.”
Garcia has brought New Orleans’ festive spirit to the Alamo City with the opening of No. 9, an Olmos Park specialty shop offering floral arrangements, gourmet chocolates and handcrafted gifts.
“We liked the idea of an apothecary, voodoo-style witch shop with a bit of Mexican culture tossed in, so you have a French Creole/Mexican culture clash,” he said with a laugh.
The shop’s logo is an image of Marie Laveau, whose reputation as the voodoo queen of New Orleans is part of Louisiana legend. Apparently, her magic is working quite well, even from the grave, for the floral, candy and gift store associated with her name.
“We’ve had steady business since we opened in February,” Garcia said. “A lot of people come in for our chocolates.”
It doesn’t hurt either that those chocolate truffles are kept in the large, glass candy case that once belonged to On Main Off Main. Garcia had the good fortune of purchasing it from William Davis and Oscar Camacho when they closed their long-running Monte Vista gift shop back in January. The confections are from the same company, Sweet Shop USA, in Mount Pleasant, Texas, that the couple ordered them from. When On Main Off Main customers discovered where the chocolates could still be had, they came calling.
“They’re hand-rolled truffles. It takes four days to make a small batch,” Garcia said, “so they’re unique in that they’re not manufactured by machine.”
In addition to the truffles, there are other interesting, sweet edibles that customers can enjoy, like their signature lavender- and rose-flavored popcorn that the Popcorn Place, just down the street on McCullough Avenue, makes for the specialty shop. Other hot-selling products include the jalapeño pecan brittle and the Grand Marnier-infused pecans made in San Saba. And straight from Sucré, a New Orleans dessert shop, comes rose and pistachio candy bars and salted caramel marshmallows.
“It’s exciting to see all the products that I sourced and picked out to be selling so well,” he said. “When I worked at Pier One, I had no say in the selection of products, but here I do.”
Floral service is also an important part of their business, whether it be from someone walking in from the street to order an arrangement for a special occasion, or for the coveted contract No. 9’s sister operation, Statue of Design, has with Hotel Emma at the Pearl. This includes providing fresh arrangements for the property every Thursday.
“We design 30 arrangements that get scattered throughout the hotel,” Garcia said.
No. 9 also stocks an eclectic assortment of gifts, including vases, keychains, candles, incense, paper Cleopatra masks, umbrellas, fans and other novelties unlikely to be found elsewhere in town.
His expertise isn’t in mixing potions and creating powerful tonics; it’s retail and flowers. Garcia, 35, learned about the retail industry through stints with Pier 1 Imports and World Market doing visual merchandising.
“It was easy to piece all of this together,” he said, glancing around at the neatly arranged merchandise and products, resting on shelves and tables.
Later, Garcia demonstrated his creativity at Universal Studios in Orlando, where he designed arrangements for the theme park’s sets and dressing rooms for the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Jewel and Ellen DeGeneres.
Garcia has his hands full with No. 9, as well as his wedding and event floral company, Statue of Design, which he opened nine years ago. However, he manages to make it all work. While he focuses on the gift shop, his team of floral designers take care of bridal and corporate clients in a workspace in the back of the shop. “No. 9 is refreshing and balances out the work with wedding and events,” he said.
Despite his fascination with New Orleans voodoo culture, Garcia is no high priestess. On a recent Friday morning at No. 9, he wore no colorful, African turban à la Marie Laveau, nor were there amulets hanging from his neck to ward off harmful spirits. He wouldn’t have to worry anyhow. We’re certain Ms. Laveau has his back.
No. 9 Florals
4347 McCullough Ave., (210) 232-4471, no9floralandgifts.com