People Get Ready

[ make levees, not war ]

Le Petit Soldier to close

Posted by schroeder915 on April 3, 2006

Photo credit: Jennifer Zdon

More photos at NOLA.com.

The Times-Picayune

Le Petit Soldier Shop is not alone in its distress. In the wake of Katrina, dozens of small businesses in the French Quarter already have closed, and more are on the brink.

Dugas said he is doing about 30 percent of the business he did before Katrina. To illustrate his situation, he pulled a stack of faded adding machine receipts from his pocket. The receipts catalog his year-by-year monthly sales back to 1971. Dugas did $35,000 in sales in November 2004. This past November he did $12,000.

Fortunately, he has an understanding landlord. Since reopening in November, Dugas has paid only a portion of his normal monthly rent. If he does 50 percent of his pre-Katrina business in a month, he pays 50 percent of the normal rent. …

Le Petit is the second-oldest shop of its kind in the nation and one of just a handful left on this side of the Atlantic. The figures, which sell for between $20 and $50, are cast in customized molds at 1/32nd scale, and their craftsmanship is precise to the smallest detail. …

“The situation is more dire than anybody realizes,” said Kevin Curnin, the director of public service projects at Stroock, Stroock and Lavan, a New York law firm that founded Second Wind, a nonprofit organization helping small businesses in New Orleans after Katrina. …

His house in eastern New Orleans, which he bought 50 years ago for $24,000, was flooded by 5 feet of water. He lost everything except the Newcomb pottery, antique weapons, New Orleans silver collection and paperwork he took with him during his evacuation to Thibodaux. …

The man who cast most of his figures, Donald Weil, lost his entire shop in the back of his home on Bellaire Drive, which bordered the 17th Street Canal. The flood claimed the spin-caster, furnace, compressor and vulcanizer needed to make the unique figures. The equipment cost Weil and Dugas about $12,000 when they bought it 15 years ago. Its replacement value is more than $35,000, Dugas said. …

“There are cynics out there who think that all small businesses are expendable, that if one shop falls away, another will replace it,” Curnin said. “But you’re never going to get another Soldier Shop. These great, iconoclastic small businesses can’t be reproduced. That’s what makes your city. People don’t go to New Orleans to shop at the Gap or to hear elevator music.”

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One Response to “Le Petit Soldier to close”

  1. Steve said

    Thats sad, I remember thinking how much I was looking forward to taking my boys by there when they were a little older. A damn shame, thats what it is.

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