Rita's been at the French Market for a long time. Through searing summers, hurricanes and floods, you'll always find her smiling and giving out the best New Orleans tour guiding around. Given her longevity as a candle making vendor, we interviewed her and asked...
Just what is it that you like best about selling candles at the French Market?
When you work all the time--often 7 days a week, as I have been for all these years, customers become friends. I have so many fantastic customers all over the world. They're in every state and in 35 other countries. Many repeatedly shop with me year after year.
I have one customer who lives in Florida. She and her husband come to the French Market and stay in the same hotel every time. They've been coming around Mother's Day for years and years. So we meet up, and her husband does his thing, and she and I go to City Park or Long Vue Gardens or go grab lunch somewhere. It's so fun to visit with her.
Now that I'm not at the Market because of COVID-19, and her annual trip has been postponed several times, she’s been in touch every couple of weeks about what's going on in our lives.
I have customers from California who have shopped with me for years when they come for Jazzfest. They love New Orleans music. Once they were shopping for one of my lanterns, and one of them said, “Oh, I have to take this call to see if I got this job.” When she got off her call, and came back to the booth, she was so excited. She said, “I got the job! I got the job!” I said, “that’s so wonderful! Where?”
“Facebook!” she said. That was really something!
Another time I got a note from a customer saying, “I just want you to know I was so impressed. You were so cool when I was there getting my candles.” And I said, “Well, please tell me what I did that was cool so that I could tell my children because they don't think I'm cool at all!”
Turns out, Adam Lambert from American Idol and Queen came to the booth and asked if I had a red currant candle. She said, “You didn't miss a beat; you just pointed to the candle on the table and said, ‘Oh, yes, it's right here.’ I thought that was so cool that a celebrity came to the table and you didn't even get excited or look impressed or anything.” LOL, I was so busy looking for a candle, I didn't see him!
There's so many coincidences at the Market. A couple from Chicago bought a bunch of candles and a Lantern and asked me to ship the order home. As I was packing the order, they asked if I would be there the next day, too. I said no, as I was leaving to go up to north Louisiana to visit my mother who has Alzheimer's. The husband had handed me his card to get his mailing address, and it turned out he was the national CEO of the Alzheimer's Association!
What’s your biggest life lesson from meeting people from all over the world at the French Market?
I sell a candle called Desire, which is a really pretty floral with the plumeria flower and a magnolia top note; there’s even a little bit of jasmine in it. I named it after “Streetcar Named Desire,” which, of course, was written by Tennessee Williams when he lived on St. Ann Street in the Quarter.
People come up to the booth, and I say, “OK, which candles do you want?” And they'll say, “I want this one, and this one, and I want Desire.” And I’ll look at them and say, “Well, don't we all, honey?”
Everybody gets that: Men, women, old, young, whatever. All of them laugh, and they all get what I'm saying. And it just shows me that no matter where you're from, what country, what state, what city, your age, nothing matters because there are certain things that all of us have in common. And I think that's so important these days for us to all realize that we're all alike. We're all human beings.
And that's why I love the French Market...and y'all!