Harold’s Plants

Growing the neighborhood for 40 years

Harold’s Plants
1135 Press St., New Orleans
504-947-7554  //  haroldsplants.com  //  facebook.com/Haroldsplants  //  @haroldsplants

One of the biggest advantages of being a neighborhood business is that your neighborhood customers are your best advertising.

This is especially true in the case of Harold’s Plants, which, despite its fairly recognizable address of 1135 Press Street, is not easily found. Just off St. Claude Avenue, at that point, Press Street is little more than a gravel strip next to the railroad tracks.

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“Our biggest challenge is having people know where we are,” asserted owner Kurt LeBlanc.  “We don’t have a street front, so a lot of our advertising is word of mouth, based on our reputation.”

That reputation has been built over most of five decades. The business was founded in the 1980s by the eponymous Harold Applewhite, originally as a booth in the French Market. The plant store moved to its current location in the 1990s, and in LeBlanc’s words, “has been a little piece of the neighborhood ever since.”

LeBlanc began working at Harold’s soon after the move, and ultimately purchased it in 2015.

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“Harold could be the biggest curmudgeon, but he also had the biggest heart,” LeBlanc recalled. “He was getting older, and we had talked for years about me buying the business.”

The sale came with one condition: “We agreed never to change the name,” said LeBlanc with a laugh. “Until the day he died, he was here every single day. We try to keep as much of the character it had back then as we can.”

The plant oasis serves neighborhoods like Bywater, St. Roch and the Marigny.

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“Whatever the neighbors want, that’s what we get,” LeBlanc affirmed, noting that about two-thirds of the inventory is outside plants, and one-third indoor plants. “The indoor selection gets bigger every year — people seem to be downsizing, working with less space.”

The store itself has been going in the opposite direction, having purchased several adjacent small properties to accommodate steady growth. The main facility is backed by Marais Street — also a gravel alley more than anything else — and fronted by several blighted properties on the other side. The staff helps maintain the street, and LeBlanc obtained some of that property to build a new greenhouse.

“Keeping that area up helps the neighborhood and our customers,” he observed. “To us, it’s just part of being a good neighbor.”

In keeping with its surroundings, Harold’s tends to focus on unusual and more tropical plants, such as bromeliads. The store recently began highlighting aquatic plants, following the closure of Aquatic Gardens, whose owner helped train the staff on this particular specialty.

That staff numbers 10 to 12 people, some of whom have worked at Harold’s for many years. LeBlanc reported that a lot of them have their own specialties in the flora world, and the inventory reflects their particular interests.

“If you give people free rein to do their own thing, it just works,” he said.

Evidence of this is the fact that many of Harold’s customers have been buying plants there for 30 or 40 years, and many new customers show up based on recommendations from their neighbors. Even though it has evolved from a flea market booth to a full garden center, it still operates on a person-to-person level.

“We are plant lovers for plant lovers,” LeBlanc concluded.


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