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Slow and steady: A story of Rosalie Apothecary

Rosalie Apothecary (photos by: Kelley Crawford)

Some of the smallest restaurants or stores in New Orleans have the biggest stories behind their creation, and that is certainly true for Rosalie Apothecary. Nestled on the corner of Rendon and Toulouse in Mid-City, this herb shop that offers tinctures, herbs, community workshops, teas, and much more had quite the haul making it to their corner spot.

It all seemed to start off easy for Christiane Wurmstedt, owner of Rosalie Apothecary. Her husband saw an ad on Craig'slist for an apartment, and in the apartment picture there was a storefront. "I had wanted to open up an herb shop," Wurmstedt explains, "and I had always been interested in it being in Mid-City." So, they did some research.

From the 1930s through the 1960s, the front building had been a grocery store. Things were looking good. The next step? They went to the space, expecting a possible disaster and finding a shop that was clean, organized, and looked ready to go. It was as if the fates had finally aligned, but then came a terrifying word: zoning.

The area was rezoned sometime in the 1970s, and buildings that were not functioning as businesses were overlooked and not set-up for commercial zoning. So that beautiful storefront with double windows and a corner entrance was zoned as residential.

Wurmstedt had to apply for new zoning, which she describes as a "perfect storm," since she was reapplying at the same time the Master Plan being developed. Projects like hers were being endorsed by the city; yet, she still couldn't get the zoning approval. "It was a fight," she says, and she is thankful that she didn't realize what a struggle it would be when she first went after the rezoning certification. "I might have been naive, but I just kept my eye on the prize," she says. And the prize was a shop that would be for the community and embraced by the community.

Armed with her mission, Wurmstedt set up good neighbor agreements and talked with the community members to get their permission to open the apothecary. That involved community dinners, petitions, letters, and neighbors pitching in with all of those elements. "Then I basically lived at City Council for about a month,"Wurmstedt says. She submitted all of her documentation and got used to hearing the word "no."

"I want to share this story because I want people to know that they can open a business. You want to work with the community, hear their fears--since people are often afraid of change--and their ideas, and don't get discouraged,"Wurmstedt says, taking a deep breath and warning, "I told you this was a long story."

There were a lot of connections made, and Wurmstedt looked for anyone and everyone that would talk with her. In that process, she discovered that storefronts get special permission when it comes to zoning and that a lot of the properties in Mid-City at that time were actually on commercial zoning. "Half of the block we were sitting on was all C1, which can have up to 20,000 square feet of development...and we were going for a B1A, which is much smaller." This discovery gave her the fuel she needed.

After 8 months of applications, city planning commissions, petitions, community dinners, and presenting her research about the C1 statuses to the council member, Rosalie Apothecary finally got its approval. So just like the herbs that you smell as you walk by the store, admiring the window plants and flowers, this apothecary's roots grew slowly, and Wurmstedt is hoping they are here to stay.

 

Rosalie Apothecary (3201 Toulouse) is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM. For a full list of their workshops and classes, you can check out their website. 

Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at kelley@nolavie.com.