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Shoptalk: Historic New Orleans Collection 

click to enlarge Michelle Gaynor manages the gift shop at the Historic New Orleans Collection.


Michelle Gaynor manages the gift shop at the Historic New Orleans Collection.

The exhibitions at The Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC) are meant to be viewed and admired, but the items at The Shop at the Collection (533 Royal Street, 504-598-7147; are meant to be picked up and taken home.

  "I want customers to feel that they're not in the museum, that they're welcomed and comfortable and can get in there and touch and experience," says store manager Michelle Gaynor.

  Maps, stationery, jewelry made by more than 15 local artists, reproduction prints and books from the HNOC's publishing house are among the items for sale.

  "We're unique in the fact that we're 300 years of New Orleans history and culture," Gaynor says. "So that's 300 years of interpretation of architecture, music and food. There's a lot of opportunity as far as what you carry in the shop that lends itself to those things, but it can also be daunting."

  Gaynor's 15 years of experience in corporate retail prepared her for the job. She values her current position because it allows her to exercise her creativity and collaborate closely with HNOC staff.

  "It's not just me as a manager that makes this happen," Gaynor says. "The shop is touched by every single person who works here. It's really important to me that the staff feels proud of the shop."

  Gaynor and the staff draw upon HNOC's vast holdings and resources to find inspiration for new products. For example, the store offers custom reproductions of Michael P. Smith's black-and-white photographs as well as reprints of historic maps of the city.

  "We have copyrights to reproduce the images, so we can make Mike's work accessible at a price point people can afford," she says.

  Gaynor acknowledges the challenge in representing a large, vibrant city via store merchandise and says many locals have strong opinions about the shop.

  "When locals come in here and like the shop, it's the biggest reward and compliment you can get, because they live here and they know about our city," Gaynor says. "You end up spending a lot of time with people in the shop. I want customers to feel like they're taking a part of the city back with them."

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