Baton Rouge attracts 11.3 million business and leisure travelers a year, but there are few spots downtown to shop for Capital City keepsakes to bring home. Expanding those souvenir shopping opportunities is the mission of the new North Boulevard store, BRASS, shorthand for Baton Rouge Area Souvenir Shop.
“We saw a need … and we said, ‘Let’s just try it,'” says Luke Lognion, who opened the store with husband and business partner Garrett Kemp. The two also own Circa 1857.
“We think that there’s enough of a market of tourists coming in who want to shop and buy local Baton Rouge mementos to take home,” Kemp says. “Equally as much, we believe that in every one of these office buildings, there’s always a birthday.”
A conventional tourist shop might signal kiosks stuffed with cheap tchotchkes, but BRASS has a different vibe. Kemp and Lognion carry Baton Rouge-branded keepsakes, but they also source locally made items, many of which are made by vendors you might also find at the Mid City Makers Market.
The store, once occupied by The Big Squeezy and overlooking Rhorer Plaza, holds original art, jewelry, pottery, tea towels, pillows, ornaments, books, cards, wooden bowls and cutting boards, housewares and others goods.
Culinary offerings are available, too, including spices and spice blends from Red Stick Spice Company, and products from restaurateur and food personality Jay Ducote. BRASS also sells vintage LPs featuring Louisiana musicians.
Kemp and Lognion have made sure to include lots of small, easy-to-pack items that will appeal to convention-goers and Mississippi riverboat cruisers, but shipping is also available.
The momentum to launch the downtown tourist shop was fueled by the couple’s association with Circa 1857, which sees its fair share of tourists since the Mid City shop is the closest retail outpost of its kind to downtown.
Kemp started working at Circa in 2012, while still in high school. When the business came up for sale in 2016, he bought it with help from family. Since then, he’s morphed the store from being a consigners’ venue to one with a central theme: French and English antiques. It’s been a successful move, with sales steadily growing each year, Kemp says.
“We tried to go from ‘garage sale’ and sort of flea market-style, to more of a curated-style with constantly changing displays and exhibits,” Kemp says. “There are still six or seven vendors left, but as they leave, it is our intention to keep taking over the space.”
Kemp and Lognion have branded their new store BRASS by Circa 1857 to encourage shoppers to try both experiences.
A coffee bar at the rear of the new downtown store will serve coffee and tea.
Although hours could change, BRASS will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., making it easy for both downtown workers and weekenders to shop for holiday items.
BRASS will be open during the downtown Festival of Lights on Friday, Dec. 3. The store’s grand opening is Saturday, Dec. 4.