When I explained to Arthur that part of my project was to map out a history of the neighborhood, he launched into a vividly detailed description of what “the row” looked like when the Brocato family moved there in 1979. The only other food establishments on the street at the time were Venezia (still standing) and Hazel’s Po-Boy’s, an establishment since closed. The Red Door Bar was also around back then, and according to Arthur its clientele isn’t as rough and tumble as it was in the old days. Everything changes with time. The rest of the street was filled with businesses that were functional for the neighborhood. On one side, (Brocato’s side) stood Fashion Forward, David’s Beauty Salon, Johnson’s Hardware, and a used car dealership where Kjean’s now stands. Across the street was Ace’s Pool hall (now Wit’s Inn), a washing machine repair center (now Doson’s), and a sign painting business. A bit further down the road towards City Park was Chaubaud’s Marine, Music City, and a tire repair shop. There was also a small market nearby where neighborhood residents could grocery shop. The building where Brocato’s itself now resides was three different bakeries beginning in the 1920’s.
It seems as though this strip of Carrollton was a sort of one-stop-shop for daily errands. When I asked Arthur what he thought of the neighborhood now in comparison to what it was back then, he told me that things have definitely changed, but he isn’t sure whether or not they’ve changed for the better. He explained that as far as a restaurant boom is concerned, he felt that “the row” had reached it’s peak right before Katrina. Restaurants in general on Carrollton Avenue have come back strong post-K, but Arthur isn’t sure that that’s best for everybody’s business. On one hand, he reasons, variety can bring people to the neighborhood more regularly to eat, but on the other, there might reach a point where there are too many establishments vying for a set group of clientele. Judging by the line out the door on a summer Friday night, I don’t think that Brocato’s has much to worry about. Nevertheless, it is fun to reminisce about spending a productive afternoon in the 70‘s on Carrollton where one could park the car and walk to get one’s hair cut, pick out a new outfit, break for a classic Italian lunch and possibly wind down by playing some pool.
Arthur’s mixed feelings about the numerous food establishments got me wondering what other residents of New Orleans and specifically Mid City think about the changes to the area. If you can recall what Carrollton was like prior to its present incarnation, please feel free to chime in and comment! I’d love to hear what pieces of history our residents have to offer.