POSTED Mon. Jun 15, 2015

Creative Culture

Made in New Orleans, Beauty for Everyone
Cree McCree
Written by CREE MCCREE

“Everything here is locally made,” says Amy Knoll, speaking to a lively trio of ladies who’ve ventured into her Burgundy Street shop. The impish blonde owner of Bon Castor is perched in her usual spot: on a stool behind the counter of her tiny treasure box of a store, which also serves as informal hub for the surrounding Bywater neighborhood.

It’s Knoll’s standard greeting to first-time visitors, whose eyes dart around to take in the carefully-curated melange of wall art, fashion, home decor, body balms and assorted objets d’art. But “locally made” never gets old. Spoken with pride, and a flashing grin, the greeting sounds freshly-minted every time. So does its corollary: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everything has a story.”

And oh, what stories they tell. The idiosyncratic visions and passions of several dozen New Orleans artists, most of them from this neighborhood, beckon from every corner, some hung prominently on the sunny yellow walls, others tucked into nooks and crannies awaiting discovery.

Rickie Lee Jones had her “eureka!” moment when she spotted the exquisite tea-dyed, hand-embroidered gloves she wears on the cover of her upcoming album, The Other Side of Desire. Fittingly, those gloves were crafted by fellow musician Joy Patterson for her ‘Twixt Piety and Desire fashion label.

Outside the shop, racks of funky-chic clothing beckon fashionistas. Esther Rose’s sweetly romantic designs echo the close harmonies she forges with her bandmates, and pair well with the charming cotton dresses bearing the Passion Lillie label. Those are by Katie Schmidt, who started the Fair Trade program at Tulane and now works with families in India to produce her own fashion line.

“It’s a New Orleans-based co-op that’s impacting other cultures,” says Knoll, “which is really cool.”

Bon Castor regulars stop in to chat with Knoll, and grab a couple treats for their pets from the big jar of dog biscuits she keeps on the counter. They also make a beeline for the shelf of Smoke Perfumes. Concocted from rich essential oils by massage therapist Kathleen Curry, “they smell like heaven,” Knolls notes. “A lot of people are addicted.”

Regulars also come back to replenish their stock of nutria catnip toys by Jessica Radcliffe, or pick up nutria slap bracelets by Kate McNee as last-minute gifts for friends. Both designers are longtime Bywater residents and old-school makers, who acted as Knoll’s “fairy godmothers” when she first opened her doors.

“I would not be here without the people who made the neighborhood what it is,” says Knoll, who credits next-door neighbor Christopher Porche-West for creating her block’s “cornerstone” with his iconic art installation. “This may be the new New Orleans, but we wouldn’t be here without the old New Orleans.”

Years ago, when L.E. Koffskey ran the corner pharmacy, Burgundy was lively retail corridor was known as the “Main Street of the 9th Ward.” Now it’s a work in progress, and Knoll is on a new frontier of retail that’s only beginning to emerge.

Paul Webb’s Bywater Music was the first new kid on the block, and Euclid Records was a welcome addition when it opened around the corner on Piety.

But when the St. Claude corridor started coming back after Katrina, “it was mostly restaurants, bars and galleries,” says Knoll, who’s across the street from Maurepas and down the block from Suis Generis and Bud Rip’s.

“I opened Bon Castor more to fulfill a neighborhood need than to make a profit; profit margins in retail are really thin. I also selfishly wanted a place to buy really good birthday cards and gifts in my neighborhood.”

Knoll’s got plenty to choose from now. She’s also fulfilling a dream she didn’t even know she had.

A philosophy major with a background in community organizing, Knoll was working at a Gap in Chicago when she met soon-to-be-husband William Walker, another Windy City native. She followed her heart to New Orleans, where Walker founded Lost Love Lounge with a couple old UNO classmates and Knoll was recruited to open Anthropologie in Canal Place.

“While I was working at Anthropolgie, I was always complaining about the lack of shops in our neighborhood,” says Knoll. “So Bill challenged me to open my own store. At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be.”

But she knew exactly what she wanted to call the shop, which opened in 2012 after she and her family and friends renovated the space from the ground up. “Bon Castor” pays tribute to Knoll’s hero, Simone de Beauvoir, who was nicknamed “castor,” or beaver, by her classmates because she worked harder than the boys.

Knoll also knew she wanted Bon Castor to be more than just a store. “There are a couple shops in Chicago, like Hazel, that are very community-driven,” says Knoll, who used them as a model. “I can’t open a dry cleaners. But I can open something that people who live here can really use, like a beauty shop.”

Savage Beauty, run by hair artist Jo Starnes, now operates out of the back of Bon Castor, making it even more of a community center. And when Day of the Dead rolls around, neighbors bring their own offerings to add to altar outside the store, which grows more elaborate every year. The shop also serves as a kind of ad hoc incubator for neighborhood arts projects like the upcoming production of The Tempest, which was born at Bon Castor.

“I’m really excited about that happening,” says Knoll, who’s also psyched about Playhouse NOLA opening across the street. “These are the kind of people that made this neighborhood a place where I would want to open up a shop.”

Bon Castor is located at 3207 Burgundy St. Hours are 11am-7pm Tuesday-Friday; 12pm-8pm Saturday; and 12pm-6-pm Sunday. Closed Mondays.

Photo by Theo Eliezer.

POSTED Jul 18, 2019

Creative Culture

August in New Orleans

August in New Orleans

New Orleans may be known as a party town, but locals work as hard here as they do in any city. Take a break from the routine with…....

Written by CREE MCCREE
POSTED Dec 14, 2018


Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Hey, the weather outside is kind of frightful! About as frightful as it gets down here anyways (also, note that next week temperatures will be back in the…....

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED May 10, 2017

Creative Culture

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

On May 12 the New Orleans Museum of Art will fling open its doors for Masquerade: Late Night at NOMA, a costume party replete with float builders, mask-makers,…....

POSTED Dec 23, 2016


Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Happy holidays, y’all. We hope you find plenty to occupy you during this busy Christmas weekend, but if you find yourself having a small, quiet moment, or just…....

Written by ADAM KARLIN

    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.


    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at


    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.


    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.


    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.



    was added to your favorites.



    Share On Twitter Share On Facebook