Making customers is the New Orleans way. Newcomers are welcomed like old family friends, and even those on modest budgets are treated with the city's trademark hospitality and care. When I asked, somewhat sheepishly, what the store had for less than $50, a bounteous assortment of napkin rings, saltcellars, and pieces of costume jewelry were quickly brought out.
After a few hours and a dozen or so shops later, Amy and I began to understand the French Quarter's mysterious draw to millions of antiques hounds. Let's say you're looking for a versatile first antique, perhaps a chest of drawers. If you drop by Waldhorn & Adler (343 Royal) and the price of an English Georgian bowfront example is $5,500, you can go next door to Keil's or walk about 20 more paces to Royal Antiques (309 Royal) and see another dozen similar pieces in about 20 minutes. So the prices may be steep, but for the quality, almost every item is a bargain because of the proximity of competitors.
In stark contrast to the French Quarter's formal treasures, Magazine Street is a hodgepodge of very fine antiques, not-so-fine antiques, and just old stuff. The street reflects the South itself: Victorian row houses dot the avenue, some stuffed with million-dollar inventories and others sitting with torn couches and washing machines out on their front porches.
Whereas in the French Quarter an automobile is a terrible idea, to adequately cover the scores of shops along the 6 miles of Magazine Street, you'll need a car or the patience for the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, which runs parallel to Magazine. By this time on our treasure hunt, we had enlisted the aid of Macon Riddle, owner of Let's Go Antiquing. Call (504) 899-3027. For $75 an hour, Macon will take you to the little-known crevices of her city, sniffing out buys like some sort of bargain bloodhound.