Garret Kemp may be young, but he has huge respect for things that are old.
The Baton Rouge native is the new owner of Circa 1857, the storied Government Street art and antique store.
Since purchasing the store in June, he’s already renamed it (it’s now The Market at Circa 1857), launched its social media accounts and rearranged its interior.
But he’s not stopping there. The young entrepreneur sat down with 225 to talk his plans for the future of one of BR’s most beloved shops.
How does a 21-year-old come to own this 15-year-old antique store?
I went to U High School and was very involved with the arts. Shortly after I graduated I had the opportunity to help my art teacher, Therese Knowles, hang an art show that happened to be here. That opened the door—I met the owner, met the people who were curating the gallery at the time. I guess I excited them with my work ethic, and a couple weeks later they called me and asked if I still needed a job. I started shortly thereafter and have been building my way up since. Seven months ago, the owner said she was going to sell it, and I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for me to jump at. I didn’t buy the building; I just bought the business.
Describe The Market at Circa 1857 in three words.
Modern. One-of-a-kind. Gem.
What’s your vision for the store?
I want The Market to be a household name. I think it used to be and kind of still is, but not among my generation. In this day and age an antique store needs to be active on social media, and we need to be constantly changing. Each time someone comes into our store, ideally they get a different experience than the last time they were here.
How did being involved with the store at a young age shape you?
I was very lucky to get to work here. I had never built anything in my entire life, and I was surrounded here by all these people who taught me to. I think a lot of kids who want to get involved in art and design don’t always get the chance to gain professional experience. There are so many people with talents who don’t know how to use them to make a living. Somebody might make a gorgeous painting but not know how to sell it. I want the store to be a resource for more young artists.
Tell us about the name change.
I changed the name to The Market because that’s essentially what it is. If you travel to Marrakesh, there’s stall after stall of people trying to sell wares, for as long as you can see. I want to emulate that.
You travel often. How do you plan to incorporate those experiences into the store?
I’ve been scouting out areas to bring more worldly culture here. I want to bring more French Provincial and Mexican imports. If people haven’t seen Moroccan fabric, I want to show them that. Moroccan doors are some of the most intricately designed doors I’ve ever seen. You can’t go to Lowe’s and get a beautifully carved door like that.
What are your plans for events at the store?
I want to collaborate and plan events with other businesses, interior designers and bars like Radio Bar. I want to do more nighttime events and work with nearby businesses like the Guru [an event venue in the Circa 1857 complex] to promote each other. … We are really working to make White Light Night on Nov. 18 the best White Light Night we’ve ever had. With all of the businesses in this complex working together, it has the potential to be a hotspot at the event. We’re going to be staying open late, until 11 p.m. or when people are ready to leave.
As people affected by the flood begin the rebuilding process, what role does The Market play?
We’re going to do whatever we can to help flood victims. Our hearts go out to them, and we are here to help them through the entire process. I’m willing to make some deals with them and help them stick to their budgets.
Favorite piece in the store right now?
I really like the church pew. I like to sit down and enjoy having company over, and with a church pew you can squeeze in as many people as possible.
In your three years total at the store, what piece haunts you that you wish you could’ve bought yourself?
We had two barrel-back, midcentury chairs that the vendor had reupholstered in a peacock-like fabric. They sold almost immediately. They were two of my favorite things we’ve ever seen here.
What trends do you see in antiques and furniture right now?
Come fall and spring, I think midcentury modern is going to be the thing.
The Market at Circa 1857, an art, architecture, antique and salvage store, is at 1857 Government St. Find the store on Facebook or at instagram.com/themarket1857.
This story was originally published in the October issue of 225 Magazine.