By Patti Curran
Its roots Creole, “lagniappe” is a word commonly used in the New Orleans region to mean “that something extra.” Originally, a lagniappe was a special unexpected gift that a merchant would give his customer, for example, the thirteenth bagel in a baker’s dozen. The definition has since been broadened and Merriam Webster defines lagniappe as “something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.” This is a common term in New Orleans and it is now a standard in Louisiana, Missouri, as well.
When co-owner Nancy Salinas, director of economic development for the city of Louisiana, first purchased the property on Georgia Street, she had no idea what it was going to be. At various times, the building housed doctors’ offices, a water company and a department store. However, as time passed, the building deteriorated, and what Nancy purchased was little more than rubble.
Salinas marketed this piece of property to find financial support and she found it in Keith Short. Still not knowing what was to come of this debris, Short saw the vision too. Salinas remembers standing with a group of townspeople and saying, “The building will tell us, it will tell us what to do.” And it did, she says.
Everything you need under one roof
The building now houses four facilities. On the lower level is Old Towne Centre. The concept of this space is to provide a way for artists, artisans and craftspeople to sell their work without having to man a store for eight hours a day. One can simply rent a space, set up one’s work and leave it to the staff of Old Town Centre to do the rest.
Behind Old Town Centre is Saints Deli, an upscale deli with a New Orleans flair. From hearty gumbo to delectable club sandwiches on croissants with melted cheddar, Saints has a menu to satisfy almost any palate. Whether you are hosting a board meeting for 10, a happy hour for 30 or a dinner for 200, Saints serves all events on the premises and will cater off-site as well.
Sharing a wall with Saints Deli and Old Town Centre is La Salle Rouge Nightclub and Lounge. This lounge offers a sophisticated opportunity for groups to relax, connect and share a few drinks. The wooden bar was hand-built by the bartender and offers a chalkboard top for patrons to scribble down ideas or doodle the night away.
Last but not least is The French Quarter, a Boutique Hotel, occupying the entire second floor of the building. Lantern-styled lights at each room’s door illuminate the tiled hallway. It’s reminiscent of an outdoor courtyard in New Orleans complete with a bubbling fountain and fleurs-de-lis to spare. With six suites that include faux fireplaces, Jacuzzis, hardwood floors, flat panel televisions and three standard rooms, luxury dominates. However, the pampering doesn’t stop there. Whether you’re in the mood for a late night snack from the deli or a Swedish massage from the on-site masseuse, both are available to order.
Space for everyone
Now that you have the lay of the land, let’s talk about the meeting and event spaces this unique venue has to offer. On the second floor, The French Quarter offers a lounge, business center, fitness area and conference room. The conference room can accommodate around 20 people. On a nice day, your team can enjoy a meal and take a breather from your meeting on the second-floor deck just down the hall.
If you care to host larger events, you may rent the entire building or just certain rooms. The Red Room, located in the rear of La Salle Rouge and next to the deli, is the main event space. Accommodating about 100 people banquet-style, this bold room will add flare and sophistication to any event. There is plenty of space for projector screens, a podium or a small stage.
If your event calls for even more space, Saints Deli and La Salle Rouge are available in combination with the Red Room. Utilizing all three spaces can accommodate roughly 500 guests.
The entire building is equipped to offer free wireless Internet. With enough notice, any furniture and audio-visual equipment you need can be brought in. The goal of The French Quarter staff is to provide that lagniappe for each client.
Now after reading all of this, you may think, “This would be a great place to stay, but we need a larger venue for our event,” or “This would be a great place to host my event, but they don’t have enough rooms for our guests.” Not to worry!
“We are a community of partnership,” Salinas says. “We don’t want to be so limited by saying we can only accommodate a certain size; we would rather share with other facilities. If you want to book something that is beyond our capacity, just call us and we’ll make the arrangements.”
If your event calls for a more straightforward venue, the Saint Louis University Lay Center for Education and the Arts offers an auditorium as well as four classrooms perfect for breakout sessions. The entire facility can easily accommodate more than 150 people. Dormitory-style lodging is also available for up to 48 guests. The Lay Center shares a 350-acre piece of property with the Henry Lay Sculpture Park, Story Woods and the Mc Elwee Artists Residences. With golden meadows, rolling hills, lakes and streams, the Lay Center offers a perfect destination for retreats and teambuilding excursions.
Although Louisiana is only about an hour from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, if you are planning to bring in droves of people needing overnight accommodations, not to worry. With several bed and breakfasts sprinkling the town, all within close proximity of each other, Louisiana will find a way to meet your needs.
Lagniappe Around Every Corner
Although most of your needs are met under one roof with shopping, food, entertainment and accommodations, you might be wondering what else Louisiana has to offer. Like most small towns, there is a fair share of antique stores, boutiques and mom-and-pop shops. However, the list goes on. In this town, there seem to be unexpected surprises for almost every type of person.
Large contingents of artists, artisans and craftspeople have migrated to Louisiana to set up shop near the banks of the Mississippi. ASL Pewter Foundry creates award-winning, traditional handcrafted pewter that is made from start to finish in its Louisiana shop. Groups will be treated to demonstrations of spinning metal as well as casting molds. Other artists and artisans open their galleries for tours featuring oil and acrylic paintings, sculptures, encaustics and pastel, pencil and pen and ink drawings. Those interested in the arts will need more than one day to experience all that Louisiana has to offer.
History buffs will not walk away bored either. Reflections of Missouri is a gallery that displays the work of renowned historical artist John Stoeckley. If you stop by, chances are you will get to meet John and talk of days past. There is also the Louisiana Area Historical Museum as well as a cemetery tour that highlights tombstones dating back to the Civil War era. Louisiana is also known for having the most intact Victorian architecture in the state of Missouri.
Finally, for water lovers, there is much to do. Louisiana is located on the Mississippi River and is unique in that it has one of the most accessible riverfronts of all Mississippi river towns. Two Rivers Marina is located just across the bridge in Rockport, Illinois. If you are interested in taking your group out for a relaxing tour or a happy hour on the river, just let the coordinator at The French Quarter know and she can arrange it for you.
If you have more adventurous types in your group, you can set up a kayaking excursion with Midwest Sea and Kayak. Owner and guide Kevin Dempsey is an American Canoe Association (ACA) Certified Instructor. He offers a range of guided tours on the Mississippi and connecting waterways ranging from two-hour sunset tours to day-long adventures with lunch. Group and mid-week rates are available.
Breaking the Mold
Most small picturesque towns such as Louisiana are known to be great romantic getaways for couples. While this holds true for this particular river town, it is that lagniappe that helps Louisiana break out of the mold. Louisiana has opened its doors to the meeting and event industry by creating unique venues and experiences for groups. To find out more about what Louisiana has to offer you, call (573) 754-4321. MM&E
(Patti Curran is the Associate Editor from St. Louis, Mo.)
• Old Town Centre
• The French Quarter, a Boutique Hotel
• La Salle Rouge
313 Georgia Street
Louisiana, MO 63353
Phone: (573) 754-4321
Toll Free: (866) 452-9470
Fax: (573) 754-4323