Tucked away on Chartres Street, deep in the French Quarter, is a unique shop that has catered to the ‘scent desires’ of generations of Louisiana women.
Overindulge in New Orleans? Why not? Armed with a list that includes a Cajun cooking lesson, Sunday brunch at Brennan’s, late night music at a bar on Frenchman Street, shopping in the French Market for crafts from Louisiana locals, a walking tour of the Garden District, and a mosey on down the Mississippi on a river boat, we make all the check marks.
Then we head to the French Quarter shops that sell everything from inexpensive Louisiana kitsch (oven mitts adorned with red peppers and tiny Tabasco bottle Christmas ornaments), to high end art like Everhart‘s well-known Peanuts series of oils and lithographs selling for thousands of dollars. But there’s one more indulgence left for me – shopping for fragrances.
Tucked among the tourist shops and galleries in the Quarter, and almost next door to K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, is a specialty shop with a long tradition of creating scents to charm and enchant. Stepping into Hove Parfumeur is to enter into a past age of elegance when ladies took time over their ‘toilette’ and chose their fragrances according to the seasons as well as personal preference and mood. With over 50 scents to choose from, this takes time. Here, the ambience suggests slow down, relax and stop to smell the roses, or at least the Rose Geranium scented perfume. It’s the opposite of the New Orleans motto “laissez les bon temps rouler” and the party ‘til you drop’ atmosphere of Bourbon Street.
Some years ago, standing in the door way to get out of the rain – where’s the umbrella when you need it? – the owner of Hove Parfumeur invited me out of the wet to bide my time until the sun re-emerged. This was the beginning of a love affair with this fascinating perfume shop.
As times change, so too do our preferences. Mine began with sporty aromas like El Capitan, an outdoorsy citrus for weekends, Rue Royale, an elegant light and dry fragrance to wear to the office, and the feminine and seductive Jasmine for evenings. These days, I’m drawn to Clochettes des Bois, with dominant notes of spring freshness for everyday wear, the warm and woodsy Corduroy, suited to the cooler winter months, and the timeless favourite Lavande. I’ve developed a yen for the Magnolia scented soaps, a luxury to bathe with, that remind me of the Old South.
Where do all these scents come from? It began in 1931 when Mrs. Alvin Hovey-King, a world traveller, turned a hobby learned from her Creole French mother into a business. She opened a perfume shop on Rue Royale, in the French Quarter, when the family investment business failed in the Crash of 1929. Over the years, the shop has moved around the Quarter finally settling into the Chartres Street premises in 2011. With the move came an expansion into fashion but the main business remains scents – perfumes, colognes, lip balm, creams and soaps, candles and more.
This is a family business (they live upstairs) and the fragrances are mixed on the premises using essential oils and ingredients from around the world. Their authenticity hearkens to an earlier time. The shop is cozy and the staff encourage lingering while you sniff the fragrance sticks. As you do, you’ll find yourself narrowing down your preferences. Will it be sporty or sexy? Modern or traditional? Or maybe a sample package of three aromas? The Standard Line is floral, woodsy and light. The Luxury Line is more complex and heavier.
Will you take home cologne or perfume? Maybe try a skin cream? The soaps are luscious. The candles carry a beautiful scent throughout a room. It’s a tough decision.
Though there may not be a scent named Desire (yet), it’s easy to desire many of the goods on offer. Armed with a sample pack of three special occasion fragrances, a cologne for everyday, and packages of soaps, I’ve answered my own question: “Why go all the way to New Orleans to buy cologne?”
Hove Parfumeur Ltd is located at 434 Chartres Street, New Orleans. There’s a second location in Destin, Florida. The website is http://www.hoveparfeumeur.com