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A Different Drummer 

Shoppers looking for something a little different -- or totally unique -- can find a wealth of things to choose from in the spacious but packed-to-the-rafters showroom at Hopkins Blvd. Imports (8300 Earhart Blvd., 864-0277).

The store, which opened last September in the century-old Bubble Gum Factory, stocks a plethora of furniture, home decorating accessories and gifts, boasting more than 8,000 items hand-selected from eight different countries in Asia and Europe, including Romania, India, Indonesia, Thailand, China, the Philippines, Korea and Tibet. Owner Jim Peresich says he hopes to add Malaysia and Vietnam to the list in the future.

The merchandise itself also represents a range of tastes and styles, including hand-carved and brightly colored furniture as well as more classic lines of furniture made from teak and other woods. There are also metal items such as a portable gazebo, furniture made with woven hyacinth over teak frames (great as an economical alternative for rattan outdoor furniture), toys, mobiles, ceramics, tableware and linens, mirrors, chairs, baskets and copper containers and much, much more.

"We try to appeal to a broad cross-section of the population," says Peresich, who also owns Hopkins Blvd. Imports stores in Gulfport, Miss., and Mobile, Ala. "We want to be different, but we don't want to be so different that our products can't be used (for a long time)."

Prices in the store range from $1 to $5,000, he says, and the business focuses on buying its merchandise from individual artists or families in the foreign countries instead of buying wholesale.

"We try to deal with individuals or families instead of large factories," he says. "It can mean a big difference to a family over there."

Much of his merchandise is discovered and purchased by a Texan named Gary Stolop, who opened a business in San Antonio 20 years ago with the goal of having the most diverse mix of unique items under one roof anywhere in the world. Peresich says he patterned Hopkins Blvd. Imports after Stolop's philosophy and often accompanies him on buying trips.

"We've made some adjustments for the different markets (where the stores are located) -- New Orleans is a bit more sophisticated and upper end; it's a more metropolitan market -- but the basic philosophy has stayed the same. We try to keep a nice range of accessories and gifts, too."

Open for less than a year, the 9,600-square-foot New Orleans store is the newest in the expanding Hopkins Blvd. Imports family, which started with a shop in Gulfport five years ago. The location kind of fell into Peresich's lap. He had looked for a location for five months in New Orleans, already had ordered enough merchandise to fill a 10,000-square-foot building and was considering setting his sights elsewhere when he approached a couple with New Orleans accents who were shopping in his Mississippi store who coincidentally were trying to sell the old Bubble Gum Factory in New Orleans.

"It was perfect," Peresich said. "We were looking for about 10,000 square feet to get started and it was exactly what we needed. It's incredible to have a building that old and that large in that section of town. It's just what we wanted."

Weather Reoprts
The Weather Channel's popular daily morning show Your Weather Today is taking its act on the road for the first time since it debuted more than three years ago and has chosen New Orleans as its destination.

Your Weather Today, which airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. every morning, will broadcast live from the riverfront outside the Aquarium of the Americas April 28 and 29 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. The broadcast is the fruition of a partnership between The Weather Channel and the Louisiana Office of Tourism. In addition to informing the nation about the day's weather, the program also will broadcast special Louisiana-oriented packages such as information about the state's crawfish and fishing industry and New Orleans' D-Day Museum.

In Black and White
White House/Black Market recently opened a new store at Lakeside Shopping Center (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-4540), bringing its interesting monochromatic philosophy of fashion to a 2,030-square-foot space in Metairie.

The women's specialty retailer features fashion-forward apparel exclusively in shades of black and white, covering the fashion bases from casual sportswear to dressier clothing, gifts, accessories and jewelry.

The Metairie store, which opened April 4, is divided into color schemes, with one side housing airy and whimsical white clothing in an array of fabrics, and the other half stocking edgier black clothing in a range of styles. The shop is the second in Louisiana -- the other is located at The Shops at Canal Place -- and one of 125 that will be open in the United States by the end of the year.

click to enlarge A hand-carved teak wood "shrimp" rocker is among - the thousands and thousands of uncommon home - decorating items and gifts available at Hopkins - Blvd. Imports.
  • A hand-carved teak wood "shrimp" rocker is among the thousands and thousands of uncommon home decorating items and gifts available at Hopkins Blvd. Imports.


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