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Monday, May 7, 2018

318 Art and Garden


New business combines two artistic endeavors

Cassie Johnson Rome’s experience in marketing and sales is serving her well in her new venture as owner of 318 Art and Garden, located at 750 Southfield Road. She started work over 20 years ago as a registered nurse before moving into pharmaceutical and medical device sales. This led her into research and development arranging clinical trials across three states. After marrying, she realized that she was traveling too much and took a leave of absence to consider a new job or career.

About a year later, used to having a strong sense of purpose, she was beginning to feel restless. During a visit to Cassie’s artfilled home, a friend chuckled and said, “I know what you need to do: art and garden.” Intrigued, Cassie began to research the possibilities and never saw the two presented together.

While she does not claim to be an art expert or professional gardener, Cassie is an appreciator of both. The shop, with its combination of natural tones and bold artworks, has a fresh, fun, yet calming atmosphere. She says it’s about the community and providing something she felt was missing.

Cassie does not go to market to order inventory. She took a year to form a plan, figuring out whom she wanted to work with and how to reach them. The items she has selected are hand-made artworks and natural products from across the state of Louisiana. Once an item has sold, depending on the artist, it may take some time to get more in stock, if ever.

Whether she has sought them out or met them unexpectedly, every product in the shop seems to have a wonderful story. She has been impressed with how many people are successfully pursuing their passions, many while maintaining other full careers.

In a previous job, Cassie worked with watercolor artist Julia Walker. A speech pathologist, Julia painted because it brought her peace. She thought no one would want her work, but it has been a consistent big seller. Many local and regional artists are featured. Visitors are often happy to see artists represented that they have only found during trips below I-10 in the past.

Currently, their windows are filled with giant blooms and butterflies by Mardi Gras Custom Creations. This woman-owned business usually focuses on float decorations, but these oversized pieces are perfect for fun home décor. The Steel Magnolias created by a retired metal artist in Dodson, La., are also prized sculptures with limited availability. Speaking of metal, they also carry some lovely jewelry, including Bayou Glass Art by Contina Pierson.

The gentleman who makes their very popular concrete planters is the horticultural manager for the New Orleans Zoo. Cassie quickly learned that she would need multiple sources for some products, when his planters sold out during the first week. Many of these handmade processes take considerable time.

She met the supplier for her tropical air plants by chance at Music Box in New Orleans. The gardener who started the 9th Ward Nursery is also editor for the Louisiana Visitors’ Guide. Cassie said the children are always fascinated by the plants that grow without dirt.

2 Guys Honey started as a 4H project. The 13-year-old owner now has 30 hives. When they met, the young entrepreneur worked out the wholesale order himself, helped her load the car, and personally followed up later. They also carry Camden Richardson’s SoLa spice blends featuring a Monday Mix for Red Beans. Cassie stressed that anything applied to the body or ingested will be all-natural, if not vegan.

In addition to shopping, their first workshop, 318paint!, features two artists guiding 10 customers through painting an egret. Future events will teach customers how to mount staghorn ferns on hanging displays creating living artworks and another on making terrariums. Savoring wine and cheese and good company, the art and gardening workshops are another great opportunity to bring customers in the community together.

– Lynn Laird


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