NEW ORLEANS — The new Riverwalk shopping center is across the street from the Convention Center and adjacent to the New Orleans Hilton Hotel.
In addition to 136 new shops (expected to grow to 170 by Christmas), the complex has a long outdoor promenade along the scenic Mississippi River. Riverwalk, which opened Aug. 28, cost about $58 million to build, and is on the site of the 1984 World's Fair.
The air-conditioned building contains glass-fronted shops along both sides of a long brick walkway that is punctuated by wooden benches and potted plants. Overhead, support beams and ceiling are painted a uniform black. Architecturally, the best things about Riverwalk are its boardwalk and river view.
Stan Levy Imports is a showroom for this antique dealer's two larger stores on Louisiana Avenue. Its display of expensive 18th-Century French and English furniture is made all the more gracious by the view of the Mississippi, and the paddle boats and large commercial freighters steaming by.
The DeVille Bookshop has wisely picked up the scenic Louisiana theme, with a great collection of books about the history and culture of the state. There are some great coffee-table books with photographs of the bayous and harbor, and the stately old mansions and charming French Quarters, all of which exemplify the character and personality of old New Orleans.
In addition, DeVille has some fine Louisiana cookbooks, and all the best sellers in hard-cover and paperback editions.
About half of the Riverwalk shops are those that you would find in any mall. These include the Gap, Footlocker, Banana Republic and Casual Corner. Some shops are first chain outlets in New Orleans, including Brookstone, the Sharper Image, Alain Manoukian and Abercrombie & Fitch. Tourists will probably be more interested in locally owned shops that offer merchandise not widely available at home.
The Resortwork offers rather touristy but nicely designed New Orleans T-shirts, sweat shirts and rugby shirts that range from $14 to $30.
Butterfield's Etc. has cookery of all sorts, including pots for cooking crawfish and Louisiana-made platters on which to serve them. The platters are decorated with bright-red crawfish decals, and there are bowls and mugs to match. Platters cost $20, mugs $5.50. Butterfield's also has canned gumbo and packaged ingredients and spices for Louisiana cooking.
The Cafe du Monde also has a small Riverwalk shop that offers its famous coffee and chicory blend, along with prepared mix for home \o7 beignets\f7 , special New Orleans flat doughnuts that are served warm with sprinkled powdered sugar. Freshly brewed coffee and fresh \o7 beignets\f7 are also served.
Pies and Breads
There is also a shop for Omar's special New Orleans sweet potato, pecan or apple pies. Small, individually wrapped pies cost $1.50; loaves of pound cake and banana nut bread are $5.50. These are all wrapped to travel.
One of Riverwalk's most interesting shops is Upstream, a shop of handmade jewelry and clothing that was formerly in the French Quarter as the Loom Room. Owner/manager Glenna Geisert's sense of style and fun is expressed in the things she sells. Susan Neal's jackets of hand-woven fabrics in patches of blue, gray and green are constructed with interior pockets that don't interfere with the fine lines of the garment. They sell at about $200.
There are hand-loomed woolen ties ($27) and hand-painted silk scarfs ($42 to $60). The fine jewelry collection includes earrings of spiraling or dangling silver, and silver and colored glass shaped into delicate flowers.
You'll find bracelets to match, and others of stain-resistant, hand-painted silk wrapped around light-weight wooden cores. One of the most unusual items is a fish pin ($15), made by coating a real two-inch fish with acrylic. This is the creation of designer Ken Loeber, who has other items in the shop.
Geisert also has skeins of fine wool dyed to match the clothes she carries, so you can knit your own accessories to Upstream's outfits. To go with the hand-dyed wool, handcrafted knitting needles, of course.
Two interesting stores have clothing for children. Nannie's, on the upper level near the food stalls, sells handmade and imported French dresses and suits for $24 to $130. Hand-crocheted shoes in pink, blue and white cost $5.50; umbrellas with frilly edges cost $8, and you paint your name on for free.
Westfalenstoffe imports its clothes for children from Germany. It has flowered dresses and smocks for $30 to $70 and wool-lined snowsuits for $80 to $100. Pajama bags in the shape of ducks cost $19, and are a charming way to remind children to put sleep things away and make their beds.