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Kitchen Wizards 

For people who like to change the look of their kitchen from time to time and those who just want the job done quickly after they decide on a design, CounterTop Factory (1801 11th St., Kenner, 466-5887; www.countertopfactory.com) is the answer. The 27-year-old business promises installation of Formica countertops within three days of taking the order.

Owner Kevin M. Meyer started the business in 1977 to provide quality products, good prices and quick and reliable service to homeowners and builders looking for countertops. He set up a shop in Kenner where he fabricates the tops and employs a staff of 20 professionals.

"The most important selling point for our company is that we are the one-stop company for your countertops," says General Manager Ange Hughes. "You call us and we complete the job. You're not going to have to wait; we get out there immediately and the tops go in."

CounterTop Factory stocks laminates in 30 colors and can special order any they don't have on hand, says Hughes. "We stock 30 colors -- the full spectrum," She says. "What we do periodically is to survey the market and [find] the best sellers. What we stock are the most popular colors."

One reason the business offers Formica countertops instead of granite is the price point (Formica laminate is about two-thirds less than granite) and the versatility of allowing homeowners to change the look of their kitchen often. "The newer designs of laminates now look and feel like granite, but it's not priced like granite," Hughes says. "It allows the customer to remodel more than one time. If you're going to have a major investment like granite, you're going to have to live with it for a while."

In addition, laminate countertops allow consumers to more easily cover customized cabinetry that may not be a normal size or shape. "The types of tops that we do in some kitchen layouts require some custom fabrication, and we are able to do that," Hughes says. "We provide personal care when we go to install the jobs. We have trained professionals who measure the jobs so they are installed right the first time. Additionally, we don't subcontract out any of our work. When you call, we're who you get."

Meyer's original idea in starting the company a quarter-century ago was to offer homeowners and contractors value and versatility in kitchen and bath countertops, and that remains his goal.

"His interest was to provide the consumer with a product that would allow them to update the look of their kitchen at a reasonable cost," Hughes says.

Into the Limelight
Providing a space for the public to discover the works of unknown and underexposed Southern artists has always been a passion of Cole Pratt and the impetus that led him to open his own gallery Uptown a decade ago. His feeling that people want to see fresh ideas in original art has panned out, and Cole Pratt Gallery (3800 Magazine St., 891-6789; www.coleprattgallery.com) now has customers from all over the country and Europe.

"The reason I opened the gallery is that I had been in the art business a long time and the gallery I had worked with in the French Quarter had been a regional art gallery and was moving away from that," says Pratt. "I was still committed. There were also a lot of regional artists who had been underexposed commercially. To seek and show artists who are a value, still a good buy, that's what we have strived to do."

Not all the artists are unknown. His first was an 80-year-old man who was shown in museums and in books about the South, but whose work was not readily available for sale. Originally, Pratt sold his works in paper for $90, but over the years they have increased in price to between $300 and $10,000. Currently the gallery exhibits the works of dozens of artists, including Evert Witte, Andrew Bucci, Phil Sandusky, Miriam Hirsch, Jillian Banks, Wayne Amedee, Gustave Blache III, Marie Bukowski, Robin Durand, Bill Creevy and many others. All the artists represented at the gallery are living, and all have some Southern connection that has had an effect on their work.

"Although prices have increased for the artists we started representing 10 years ago Š I still believe they are a good value," Pratt says. "Over time I've added new artists who have not been tested to the gallery and tried to help them build their careers, trying to make museums and institutional collections aware of them."

Pratt has had a deep appreciation for art all his life and acquired his first painting when he was 14. He continued collecting art, developing a rich personal collection as well as a gallery with diverse styles ranging from paintings on canvas and paper to a few sculptural items. "I'm all over the place taste wise," Pratt says. "Some people think we're a little schizophrenic here, but I don't think so. Every day you get up is a new day and you need a different kind of stimulation. Our strengths are in paintings ... but the gallery is a mix of styles and mediums."

click to enlarge General manager Ange Hughes and owner Kevin Meyer stand in front of the dozens of styles of Formica laminate available at CounterTop Factory in Kenner.
  • General manager Ange Hughes and owner Kevin Meyer stand in front of the dozens of styles of Formica laminate available at CounterTop Factory in Kenner.
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