Once upon a long time ago I found myself in the Veux Carre once more. I could not say with any degree of accuracy what year it was or my purpose for being there other than to indulge in history, beauty and vice; all of which this lovely part of the world has in enormous measure. On my way to the Pirates Alley Café to sit beneath an oil painting of La Fee Verte and indulge in her spirit, I came upon a small window with paintings and a dark interior. I was intrigued and within discovered a small boutique dedicated to Vampires. Thrilled, I walked out with a painting of a Witch called “Trick or Treat” from a local artist named Melody (no last name) and a small vial of deeply intoxicating rose created from the oldest perfume maker in New Orleans. I would return years later to find my little treasure gone. Unbeknownst to me however, the boutique had only moved in the wake of Katrina. Moving to the area I re-discovered the boutique and delighted at the chance discovery, I immediately sought out the owner Marita Jaeger to hear the story of the Boutique du Vampyre.
Upon entering the little boutique I knew I had re-discovered a treasure. Their motto was Carpe Noctem and I couldn’t help but mention our magazine Carpe Nocturne which Marita immediately loved. And as she said to me, “My personal motto since college had always been Carpe Diem. I’ve always woken up with a good attitude and ready to hit the ground running, so why not translate that into the vampire world as well!” I asked Marita if she would mind my doing a little write up on the shop for our upcoming autumn issue and if she would tell me a little of her story.
She first set foot in New Orleans in the late 90s. Originally from Germany, she was immediately charmed by the historical aspect and feel of the city just as I had been long ago. In fact, we both agreed that we felt immediately at home. That the city has a way of pulling you in. It is so very true.
Marita had come on business and found herself creating more and more short business trips to the Quarter. Finally on one such a trip Marita decided to rent a small apartment on Royal, right across from Pirate’s Alley which runs along side the St. Louis Cathedral. Her thinking was that she wouldn’t feel as sad leaving every time, if she had an apartment here. She came to stay in the apartment Halloween weekend 2001, and like so many others before her, never left. She sold her house in California over the phone, flew home and picked up her dogs. And anyone with pets will pretty much agree that once they are moved, it is official!
I glanced around at the shop again. So unique. Not a horror shop but a vampire shop specifically. And if there were ever a city for such a place it was New Orleans. I asked Marita how she came to such an idea, to cater specifically to fans of vampire myth and legend. She remembered drinking Vampire Wine in California, and had never seen it in New Orleans. She actually contacted the owner of the company and he agreed to meet with her to review a marketing plan. So it turns out that Marita introduced the wine to New Orleans. On this score I had to thank her as it is one of my own personal autumn treats. She even worked with him to create Fangria. And from this exchange came the idea of a Vampire themed boutique.
“I really wanted to create a magical place, that when people entered our shop, they would be temporarily transported into, if just for a moment, a fantasy. Could vampires really exist?” She asked. I explained that on all supernatural creatures I was very open minded. That I myself was looking to do ghost tours. She went on to tell me, “Our Mission Statement is: To create a unique shopping experience for vampires and mortals alike, by featuring handcrafted items with a New Orleans flare, as well as enriching each customer’s visit to New Orleans through personal attention, building strong bonds and customers for eternity. We started with just six products: Our fortune candles that have little charms inside, and we select the correct candle for each customer, my artwork, greeting cards by a local artist, boutique T-shirts, Vampire Wine’s energy drink VAMP, wine gift boxes, and a game I created called Duel to Dawn. It was a struggle at first, but we added local artists and oved the shop to Cabildo Alley, where the shop thrived until Katrina.”
Katrina. I realized while talking with her that it was almost the ten year anniversary of that terrible storm. I had a feeling that this was the reason for the change in location. Katrina caused a tremendous amount of economic damage to the French Quarter, and vampires were certainly not excluded.
“We ended up having to temporarily close the shop six months after the storm. We kept our website going however, until we were able to reopen about 8 months later, once again on Orleans behind the Cathedral. For various reasons we moved twice more until we found our current location at 709 ½ St. Ann Street at Royal. This has been a wonderful spot for the Boutique. Just off the beaten path, there is plenty of foot traffic, but the location has a “secret” feel to it, by being on a side street.”
Yes, Katrina was a tragedy on a horrific scale. I told Marita how I remembered going to find the boutique to re-supply on Bouquet du Vampyre and being saddened to find it was gone. Then being delighted again when I just happened to (possibly literally) stumble across the boutique again at its current location. I took a moment to wander the store as customers came in. And marveled at how much I could have dropped in one visit had I been “in funds” at the time. First there were the books. A huge bookshelf of vampire novels. To my delight I discovered that most if not all of them were signed. Then there were candles, scents, marvelous hand made jewelry and even bottled vampires. What struck me was a lack of “Made In China” stamps on the wares. I asked Marita when she was free, if everything was local.
“Over the years we have attracted an amazing group of talented artists, mostly local, but also several across the country that make exclusive items for the Boutique. Almost everything in the shop is handcrafted just for us. We are so fortunate in New Orleans to have a vast pool of talent to pull from. Our magical city attracts magical people. I feel that when tourists come to visit the city, they certainly don’t want to find things made overseas, and given the talent we have here, it would be crazy not to put that to use. It’s what New Orleans is all about.” When I asked her about all the signed books she stated, “As far as books, in addition to attracting artists, New Orleans feeds peoples souls, giving them so much to write about. It makes zero sense to me to carry books that are not signed. We have such limited space, so introducing our customers to books where the authors care enough to come to the shop for book signings and meet their readers is certainly a wonderful addition to the shop.”
I myself came picked up a copy of the Casquette Girls by Alys Arden. It was lovely to see that she had signed it. Something I geek out about. The Casquette Girls is Alys’ first book. She was apparently very nervous to approach the boutique to sell the book. Marita is very careful what she chooses to put on the shelf, because the boutique has a very loyal following of readers who have come to trust their library.
“I told Alys, who lives just around the corner, that I would read the book, and let her know. Well, I was blown away, and not only began to carry her book, but also introduced her to Anne Rice, who is also now promoting the book. It is so much fun to be in a position to be able to help artists and authors,” she told me with enthusiasm.
It is a wonderful symbiotic relationship and greatly appreciated by the community. As to the other artists, many of them have approached with unusual items. And many of the artists they carry started as boutique customers.
“It is amazing the number of regular customers we have that are very talented artists. Like Sarah Segovia, who makes our stained glass items, such as our awesome signature Fangnets, refrigerator magnets that are lips with fangs and Swarovski crystal blood drops. Or Stephanie Knight, who makes our one of kind Creepy Dolls. Each one is a masterpiece. There are too many artists to mention, but each one is special to me, and they know it.”
It was nice to see such interpersonal exchange in a world swarming with corporate moguls who could care less. And the artists they carry are both eclectic and talented. I asked Marita how she generated interest in the shop given its almost hidden feel. She started a blog called VBITE, Vampire Business and International Topics of Entertainment and she does it almost nightly. It is meant to be a vampire news spot.
“I try to cover vampire world news, and then throw in something about the shop. It’s all in good fun, and gives vampire enthusiasts something to tune into.” The boutique have been a long supporters of the Endless Night Vampire Ball, hosted by Father Sebastian and held at the House of Blues the Saturday of Halloween weekend.
“We also help promote the Anne Rice fan club ball every Halloween weekend on Friday night, and we are a major supporter of the New Orleans Witches Ball, held at the Elms Mansion on St. Charles, also the Saturday of Halloween weekend,” she continued. “We also have a nightclub that pops up occasionally called Vampyre Cabaret. It’s a private club, but members can bring the same guest twice, before they must become a member. It’s also a lot of fun, but a lot of work, so it has been open less frequently than I like.” This is an event I hope to do a write up on myself soon.
To focus on the subject matter, Vampires have gone through many portrayals and evolutions, sometimes revolutions it seems, in our popular culture. When I asked Marita her opinion on what is it about the vampire that continues to fascinate through the years and the many portrayals.
“It is a crazy phenomenon. People in the dark ages were terrified of various interpretations of vampires, and today modern culture has morphed the vampire into something very sexual and desired. I believe it really stems to the fact that they offer eternal life, and they drink the life force. Those two things give people a mystery to ponder that is alluring.” We then geeked out about vampires in cinema and their many incarnations. Films ranging in style and format from After Dark to Lair of the White Worm and Lost Boys.
“ I personally like them all – the terrifying and the beautiful. I really enjoyed the recent film Only Lovers Left Alive. I think it is the most realistic of what being a modern day vampire would be like. Let the Right One In is wonderful, Lost Boys, of course “Interview with a Vampire”, “Dracula” both new and old, gosh, the list is truly too long. I actually really miss the old black and white vampire films they would put on in the middle of the night; my brother and I would sneak out of our rooms to watch. Like I said, I love them all.”
At this point more customers found their way into the store. After purchasing a bracelet for my girl Viola, I wandered back outside to meander the streets a while longer. Yet, something was itching in my brain. The one question I wanted to ask but felt a little cheesy asking. And as you know, it is always that one thing that stays and stays. So in the end, I made my way back into the shop. Marita smiled and welcomed me back. Asking perhaps was there another book I wanted to add to my collection. To this my response was typical. That I was a greedy bibliophile and would take the whole lot if I could. It was one last question however I wanted to know.
“Ask me then,” she invited warmly.
“Would you dear Lady Marita, bare your own neck to a true vampire if ever given the chance to meet such?”
My question was not as cheesy as I had thought for she considered for a long moment.
“I’ve often wondered that too – what would I do? It sounds so romantic, to be a chosen one by someone who can give you the gift of eternal life. However, I had a very realistic dream once in which a very ferocious vampire was about to bite me, and I knew it would change my life forever. I was terrified, and when I woke up and realized it was just a dream, I had wished I went for it to see what would happen – however, in my dream, I fought him off. There are so many consequences that would surely be devastating.”
With my final answer, I bid her farewell for the time being. I have since revisited the Boutique du Vampyre a number of times. Spending time in the quiet and peaceful dark shop pondering my own question and also checking my budget to see what I could get my hands on next.
You can find the Boutique du Vampyre as of this writing at the following address and links:
709 1/2 St. Ann Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 561 – 8267