Family moves New Orleans business to Natchez

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 19, 2006

Natchez &8212; Hurricane Katrina took their home, most of their personal possessions and their entire neighborhood in New Orleans, but the owners of Strega Nona&8217;s Emporium found their business intact following the deadly, devastating late August storm.

The emporium, formerly at 628 Baronne St., now fills the shop at 334 Main St. in Natchez, and owners Charles Campo and Jeanne Christie are pleased to be new Natchezians, they said.

&8220;The hurricane changed everything,&8221; Christie said. &8220;We lost our home, but more than that, we lost our entire neighborhood, the coffee shop, the gas station, everything we&8217;ve known for 17 years.&8221;

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They were among the first allowed to return to New Orleans because of their business. With their home gone, they decided to move the business. Natchez was a natural choice.

&8220;Charles and I love Natchez,&8221; Christie said. &8220;He has property up here and has been coming mostly in hunting season for the past 30 years.&8221;

Natchez has some of the same charms of New Orleans, Christie said. &8220;When we had to look for a new city to be our home, we found Natchez a perfect fit &8212; the look, the history and the soul we knew in New Orleans.&8221;

Campo has come up with a slogan for Natchez, &8220;Natchez, the Little Easy, where living is just a little easier.&8221;

Waiting for their business licenses to be issued, the couple has dressed the store with the eclectic blend of merchandise for which they were known in New Orleans. The owners translate their business name, an Italian phrase, as &8220;wise old woman.&8221;

Colorful costumes, vintage clothing, furniture and baubles ranging from small charms to decorative furnishings give the store a personality very different from the bicycle shop that most recently occupied the space.

&8220;We fell in love with this little space,&8221; said Christie. &8220;People already have come looking for costumes.&8221;

Future plans call for additions to the business, depending on the issuing of appropriate licenses, Charles said.

&8220;We want to build a small kitchen and hope to sell some food products,&8221; he said. &8220;We want to be open between 2 and 5 in the afternoon. There&8217;s a need for that.&8221;

In New Orleans, the couple also had a restaurant and night club, he said. &8220;Eventually, we&8217;d like to do that, too.&8221; He is a chef of Italian heritage and enjoys cooking, having learned from his grandmother and mother.

They hope to bring to Natchez some of the musicians who played at their club. &8220;We&8217;ve been lucky enough to stay in touch with the musicians who played for us.&8221;

With inventory from around the world, Christie takes ideas from items in the store and custom designs costumes. She also is a makeup and wig artist.

Along with some other former New Orleans residents displaced by the hurricane, Campo and Christie hope to organize what they call a &8220;New Orleans-Natchez Connection.&8221;

They opened a booth at the Great Mississippi River Balloon Festival, along with some of their Natchez and New Orleans friends, and had a big response from people stopping by, they said.

The displaced people are thinking about rebuilding or relocating, Campo said. &8220;We figure there must be about 3,000 in the area. And Natchez has some valuable and beautiful pieces of property. They&8217;re vacant and available.&8221;