Business Person of the Month: Amy Traylor

EBRPL Business Person, EBRPL Business Tip


The Buddy Loft

Amy Traylor, Owner
711 Jefferson Hwy. #5
Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Favorite Quote: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Emerson

The Buddy Loft, open since November 2013, is a specialty store that caters to the needs of “pets and their people.” Owner Amy Traylor named the store after her basset hound Buddy to honor his memory and to help people connect with and care for their animal friends.

buddy-loft-2Traylor adopted Buddy in the summer of 2011 and cared for him until he passed away from cancer a year and a half later. He was a friendly dog who loved to jump, twirl, and cuddle. Buddy spent a lot if time at the Cane’s Dog Park on Burbank often stopping for anyone who took time to give him attention. Even though Buddy is no longer with us, his spirit is alive at the Buddy Loft.

The Buddy Loft is not your typical pet store. The store’s inventory is eclectic, always changing as Amy finds new vendors and items. The shelves are stocked with many locally made items and if an item cannot be found locally, special orders are accepted. The store offers organic treats for pets, toys for children and dogs, and t-shirts and jewelry with animal themes for adults. The Buddy Loft also carries blankets and throws, pillows, towels, mugs, Christmas ornaments, and other home decorations that showcase the love of animals.

Amy and her family moved from Houston to Lecompte, Louisiana (near Alexandria), when she was seven to help with a family restaurant, Lea’s. Opened by Amy’s grandfather in 1928, Lea’s is well known for its southern comfort, down-home cooking. Amy’s grandparents ran the restaurant – they cooked, served, cleaned and did anything else that needed to be done. The plan was for the family to stay a year and help the family through a crisis but they never left. Both of Amy’s brothers are still in the restaurant business.

As a child, Amy always wanted to own her own business. She liked to play shopkeeper when she was young; she even had her own toy cash register. Amy’s work career began in the hospitality business and while working for someone else, her “entrepreneur voice” was screaming to get out.

Before she opened the Buddy Loft, Amy did a lot of market research on pet stores, pet products and people, pets, and toys. Although there are a lot of websites on how to set up a small business, she relied mostly on books for research. Amy studied business plans and books on running a business and how to make it work. She also found books on how to lay out the shop to its best advantage. Amy visited several grooming stores, pet stores, and “big box” stores with pet sections in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas. She studied what they offered and discovered that there wasn’t a store in the area exclusively catering to pets and their owners. It was then that Amy decided to open The Buddy Loft.

Being raised in a small business atmosphere gave Amy a first-hand look at their role in the community. She believes that small businesses are the backbone of the community and it is vital for the city to support them. Amy sees the community as an extended family that cares about each other. Since moving to Baton Rouge in 2002, Amy considers this her home and couldn’t imagine opening her business anywhere else.

Art is very important to Amy including her hobby of photography which allows her to look at the world through a camera lens and see things she did not realize were there. Amy is supportive of all arts (music, visual, literature). She owns a painting of Buddy done by Simon Baxter, a local artist who specializes in pet portraits. The Buddy Loft also carries art work by local artists.

As a child, Amy remembers growing up with her mother reading to her and spending summers at the library. To share her love of reading, Amy started a “little free library” in her neighborhood and encourages others to do so.

Business Person of the Month: Anne Milneck

EBRPL Business Person, EBRPL Business Tip

­Red Stick Spice Co.
Anne Milneck, Owner
7970 Jefferson Hwy.
Baton Rouge, LA


Monday through Friday, 10:30 am – 5:30 pm

Saturday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”

 – Julia Child

Red Stick Spice Company gives its customers the personal attention they expect and deserve and offers products ranging from spices to blends and rubs, from olive oils and vinegars to high-quality loose tea.  They sell the best spice blends from local chefs, award-winning grill masters, regional farmers, and they even blend some of their own. Red Stick Spice Company captures the delicious, unique flavors of our region. “Food is our passion,” says owner Anne Milneck. “In South Louisiana, we’re lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of bountiful produce and fresh seafood, and it’s important that it’s seasoned to perfection.”

Milneck is originally from LaPlace, Louisiana, and has made Baton Rouge her home for more than 20 years. She studied journalism at LSU and earned a culinary degree from the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in 2010. While her children were still at home, Anne launched a small catering business called “Lunch Lady” that specialized in gourmet boxed lunches. When the opportunity arose to purchase the Red Stick Spice Co., it was a no-brainer. “I’m a trained chef, but working in a restaurant wasn’t a good fit for my family. I work around the things I love (food) but in a less stressful environment.”

Red Stick Spice Company already had a reputation for offering a variety of high-quality spices, teas, oils, and vinegars. Anne says one of the most appealing features of the store is its ability to provide the exact amount of spice that a customer wants. And she’ll let you taste it, too. To ensure the freshness and quality of the products she sells, she doesn’t keep large amounts in stock. For the most part, what you see on the shelf is what is available.

Since buying the store, Milneck has added more spice mixes, including a few she combines on-site. Her Bayou Lafourche blend combines bay leaf and filé along with salt, garlic, granulated onion, and other dry spices. She also prepares classic French herb blends, herbes de Provence, bouquets garnis and fines herbes. She has increased the number of chili offerings for fans of spicy food, and she has a revolving list of barbecue rubs that complement seasonal foods.  Anne is also looking to add more organic spice offerings as they come available. The store also stocks award-winning loose teas along with 15 new varieties.

Red Stick Spice Company sells infused olive oils from small family farms in California, including garlic and jalapeno. The herb or vegetable is pressed in the same press as the olives, resulting in a deeper and richer flavor than simply letting a garlic clove float around in a bottle. “The difference between olive oil here and olive oil from a grocery store is huge.  A lot of olive oils are actually oil blends, not 100 percent olive.” The store also carries extra virgin olive oils, flavored oils, and avocado oil.

Anne sees small business as the key to securing the lost art of close, personal attention while shopping. “My business doesn’t move at warp speed nor is high volume a priority. For every customer to receive the attention they need, it takes time.  We spend that time with each customer.  Small businesses also play a role in helping each other. We recommend other small business to our customers – and other small businesses do the same. In this way, we create a supportive web encouraging customers to shop local.” Milneck would love to see more movement of small business into Mid-City and Downtown. “Those are areas that I’d love to see grow into communities where residents can shop, eat, and play without leaving their neighborhood and I would love to be a part of that.”

For Anne, it’s important that owners participate in every aspect of the business – sales, purchasing, stocking, and even janitorial work. “When you’re willing to do any task, you learn more about your business – and it shows.  Customers can tell if you’re fully committed. One challenge Milneck encountered was finding the right people to work in the store. However, she now has a great group of people who love working with customers. Helping customers make the most of their purchases and their time in the kitchen is Anne’s main goal. For Anne, cooking represents happiness and family and comfort and joy. She wants everyone to feel the same way when they step up to the stove.

Business Person of the Month : Claire Herthum Major

EBRPL Business Person, EBRPL Business Tip

­ClaireArtvark, Ltd, LLC
Claire Herthum Major, Owner/Designer
672 Jefferson Hwy.
Baton Rouge, LA
(225) 778-5160
 “The artful design of living and work space”

Claire Major, owner/designer of Artvark, Ltd. specializes in art, interior design and decorating.  The shop features antiques and vintage furniture along with other items such as original artwork from local artists (and beyond!).  Artvark, Ltd. can be hired to do a re-design of existing items or space or for renovations of space with new interior design.  If you want a new, fresh look using a combination of your own furniture or accessories or if you are looking for a complete renovation or redesign, Claire Herthum Major of Artvark wants to help.

The showroom offers an eclectic mix with a modern vibe and is composed mostly of vintage and mid-century modern furnishings and accessories. There is an abundance of beautiful things from times past that with a little paint, refinishing, new upholstery, or repurposing, can give your home character and pizzazz.  Customers can also get a modern look that many folks long for these days in the task-cluttered, time-deprived world we live in.

Claire has been working in the business world since 1978.  Customer service has always been the focus of her career beginning with her 12 years with the Marriott Hotel chain.  She learned the value of making people feel comfortable and at home. The Marriott focused very heavily on client service and people pleasing by promoting the Marriott Hotel and its services to encourage return business.

After leaving the hotel business, Claire consulted for 15 years helping companies develop customer-focused cultures.  She was instrumental in developing employee relations. This background and experience led her to establish her own consulting business that fostered the importance of employee well-being and job satisfaction.  Her consulting experience took her to many places around the world.  Eventually, she grew tired of the travel restrictions and regulations and decided to stay home.  During this time, Claire redecorated her house three times and moved on to decorating her friends’ houses.  Claire began to collect more items than she needed for herself or others and her husband told her to open a store and sell the stuff or have a garage sale.

interiorIn May 2011, Artvark, Ltd. opened at 672 Jefferson Highway and shares the space with MJ’s Café.  They often have art events and sales and participate in the Mid-City Merchant activities.

We like to think that designing and decorating your home is like the wedding saying: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”  No matter how modern your style is (and we lean toward fresh and contemporary) we believe having an antique, vintage or mid-century piece (or pieces) is a must.  Conversely, regardless of your love for the traditional, “modern, updated, and fresh” makes your home engaging, uncluttered, and have better resale value.  “Something borrowed” comes from our belief that a piece of furniture, art, or an accessory should be from somewhere other than your own country.  Borrow from another culture—it adds interest and variety to your home.  Finally, “something blue” is not restricted to this color only—but using any color can add punch, create balance and generate visual interest.

As an artist, I am a firm believer that art makes your home or work space more stimulating, unique and provides food for the soul.  I love decorating with pieces that tell stories—this is the difference in “plain old store bought everything” and a home where your eye is drawn in by items that are meaningful and sentimental to you—and makes it so inviting and interesting to your guests.  As Goethe said, the home should make us happy and give us “peace.”  Whether your budget affords original art or reproductions, art of any kind is a must!

3Claire feels fortunate to have the business experience that she has and to be able to roll it all into one incredible form of work—Artvark, Ltd. art and interiors—the artful design of live and work space. She knows the value of friendly, genuine attention to the customer.  Her avocation was art and interior design and decorating and now this is her vocation.  Practicing her own art-painting took a back seat to the business. “Interior design, decorating, and renovating homes is now my business and art is very much a part of it.”

Business Person of the Month: Growing Into Excellence

EBRPL Business Person, EBRPL Business Tip

GIE828 N. Sabine Dr.
Baton Rouge, LA  70809
(504) 609-9755,
(504) 975-8124,
(225) 636-9908
Colette Pate
Taeneia White-Ducre
Leah White

Do you wish children and young adults would show manners and respect?  Growing Into Elegance (GIE) is the perfect place to start. Colette Pate saw a lack of manners and disregard in the practice of etiquette in children wherever she went.  She saw a need to teach social graces to the young people she encountered at church, school, the mall, everywhere!  Colette decided to do something about it and Growing Into Elegance was born.

GIE strives to reinforce moral values, instruct etiquette, and encourage academic success and leadership to further empower our youth.  There are three instructors and approximately thirty participants per season that include group classes for ages 3-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15 and 16 & up. Classes typically begin in November and include various social events such as high teas and recitals.  The program incorporates various classes in social etiquette and community service/fundraising projects.  Participation culminates with a cotillion ball in May.

Parents say seeing the changes in their children is priceless.  Parents notice changes in manners and behavior and report an overall improvement in grades and classroom conduct. The child’s self-confidence, self-esteem and sense of self-worth improve, thus exposing them to life and other peers outside their realm of like.

GIE 2Colette Pate, Director, started Growing Into Elegance in October 2012.  She and co-directors, Leah White and Taeneia White-Ducre try to build character, self esteem, motivation, and integrity through life exposure and experience.  At GIE, young girls and boys are formally introduced into society and celebrate their transition into young adulthood.  Colette has over 20 years of experience dealing with both children and the elderly.  She is very active in her church having directed several church plays.  Colette believes faith and education are most important.

As a young adult, Taeneia White-Ducre learned the core value of social graces.  Her motivation to encourage young people to truly live and explore everything possible comes from her own life experiences and hopes to help change the lives of young people so they can become successful, fearless, and confident leaders. She is also a certified Etiquette Instructor from Etiquette Leadership Institute in Athens Georgia. Taeneia received her Business Management degree from LSU and traveled to six countries while participating in an International Business Seminar program.

Leah White has a Kinesiology degree from LSU and has received a Master’s Degree from the University of Phoenix.  Leah hopes GIE will be able to provide support to youth across the state by extending their services into schools and by helping build a greater partnership between parents and schools in order to prevent youths from falling through the cracks.

GIE 3The directors visit churches and schools to create awareness of their program to students and parents.  Growing Into Elegance advertises in Baton Rouge Parents Magazine and has its own Facebook page.  GIE has plans to become a non-profit foundation to give greater opportunity to every child and youth. Growing Into Elegance believes “some young people are academically gifted; some are athletically gifted; all can be socially gifted.”

We welcome everyone to join us at our upcoming Cotillion Sunday, December 15 at Boudreaux’s in Baton Rouge, LA.  This will be a Red Carpet event and the theme will be “The Impossible Dream”.  Please contact one of the directors for additional information.

Business Person of the Month: Lathan Ross Alexander

EBRPL Business Person, EBRPL Business Tip

Lathan Ross Alexander, President & Co-Ownerlathan_alexander

Alexander’s Highland Market

18111 Highland Market Drive

Baton Rouge, LA   70801

Phone:  225-615-7800

Store Hours:

Mon – Sat: 6am – 10pm

Sun:  7am – 9pm

“Any definition of a successful life must include serving others” (George Bush)

Lathan Alexander “grew up” in the family grocery business.  Richard Alexander, Lathan’s great-grandfather, opened the first Alexander’s grocery in Ascension Parish in 1921.  Murray, Richard’s grandson and Lathan’s father, took over the store in 1977 and named it Murray’s Supermarket. This store is still in operation today and is managed by Lathan’s brother Reid.     Murray’s Supermarket was Lathan’s “center of gravity” as a child.  His mother was a school teacher in Ascension Parish and his dad ran the store.  Lathan would attend elementary school, which was just around the corner, and walk to the store after school.  He would do his homework there and “help out” in the store until it was time to go home.

Lathan is a 1984 graduate of St. Amant High and a 1988 graduate of LSU’s College of Business (Accounting).  After graduation, he worked for one year as an accountant at a private firm.  In 1989, he chose to return to the family business where he (along with his brothers, Ryan and Reid) continues to actively develop and expand their two core businesses – the retail grocery store business and the aftermarket automotive parts business

“Although I was raised in a family business that I inherited with my siblings, I chose to continue this because I love serving customers. Life in a family business taught me a good work ethic, but life in the grocery business taught me about service and human interaction. I’ve learned how to connect my faith life to my business. By recognizing the opportunity to serve the community, my work life took on a far greater significance for me. And that is rewarding. It became the basis of my entrepreneurial idea.”

In October of 2011, the Alexanders purchased 3.5 acres at the corner of Highland Road and Perkins Road East to build a 37,000 square-foot state of the art facility that houses a cafe, bakery, deli, floral department, and pharmacy along with an old-world style market offering organic foods, locally harvested produce, fresh seafood, choice meats, and an extensive wine department. Brothers Lathan, Ryan, and Reid Alexander lead the effort to ensure Alexander’s Highland Market continues the family’s reputation for excellence.

It is the mission of Alexander’s Highland Market to provide a full service neighborhood grocery store with a strong sense of community ownership. Rooted in Biblically-based principles of welcome and service to our neighbor, disciplined work ethic, and charity, The family’s intent is to provide an inviting and warm atmosphere, amiable customer service, the finest quality products available utilizing local brands & growers whenever possible, and a selection of wholesome products that can only be delivered by a locally-owned family operation that shares and understands the history and unique culture of our community.

Customers will find that Alexander’s Highland Market is owned and operated by their neighbors. And like visiting a neighbor, customers will experience a similarly warm and friendly welcome. Throughout the entire organization is a sense of pride that comes from belonging to this special community in the heart of South Baton Rouge. “We’re from here, too!” Lathan likes to remind people.

“It’s our mission to be the store of choice for the neighborhood, the connoisseur of good food, and the amateur chef,” he says.  The choice of where to spend the food dollar is up to the customer.  At Alexander’s Highland Market, the customer can choose organic, gluten free, hormone free, or regular processed food items.  They can choose healthy options and quick options.  If the customer is looking for convenience, they can purchase and take home prepared food ready to serve, or foods that are oven-ready for cooking and serving at home.  The market also carries a full line of staples: meat, fruits, vegetables and spices for “start from scratch” meals.

According to Lathan, small local businesses have a role to play in fostering community in the market place.  “In ways that big box national retailers can never understand, we strive to connect with our customers on a personal level. We try to provide a forum for community to happen. As a neighborhood store we do that by creating an environment where our neighbors can not only shop, but also visit with their neighbors in an environment that reflects the culture of our community.”  Alexander’s Highland Market provides a cafe that is comfortable and decorated in our city’s history – a place to gather for socializing, meeting, or relaxing in an environment that celebrates the connection to our city’s past and present.

That sense of community in the marketplace is also enhanced through Alexander’s association with local small businesses. Because they are small and local, Alexander’s more effectively supports the local economy by hiring local citizens and providing a way for them to support their families, and by utilizing local businesses rather than national firms to provide the services needed to run the business. For example, Alexander’s Highland Market hires local attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, and advertising firms, whereas most national retailers do not.

“National firms do not provide any of this web that is necessary for our whole community to thrive. Without small local businesses, there would be a lot of local farms, businesses, and professionals who would not have a job. That is what is so important about local small Louisiana businesses. It is my hope that more people understand the value these connections provide to the health of our local economy.  Not only that all small businesses network and give their best effort to support each other, but that we everything possible to use a local alternative before resorting to an out-of-state alternative.”

Lathan believes the greatest challenge for all small businesses is the role of administrator. The inevitable tasks of handling administrative matters are multiplying exponentially in this ever more complicated business environment and take up more and more time. For him, those are necessary tasks, but they take him away from what got him into the grocery business in the first place – serving and interacting with customers.  “Whatever business venture you decide to pursue, make sure it is something you can be passionate about. Without a passionate interest, you will never be able to justify the time it takes to run a successful business.”

The Alexander family supports various charities such as the Food Bank, Cancer Services, and Community School for the Arts. Lathan is a member of St. George Catholic Church where he has participated in the past as a Baptism sponsor and now participates as a Confirmation Sponsor.  For business advice, he reads the Wall Street Journal and reads historical fiction in his leisure time.

The family also owns B&B Automotive Warehouse and Blues Auto Parts, a chain of 6 stores located in Gonzales, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Houma and Hammond.  They are wholesale distributors of aftermarket automotive parts and distribute their lines to general repair shops, tire stores, paint and body shops, government agencies, and retail auto parts stores.  They also specialize in delivering quality professional products with unparalleled service and are a member of the Federated Auto Parts network.  These stores are currently run by managers, industry professionals, who have been with the company for 10 years or longer.  This arrangement leaves Lathan free to concentrate on Alexander’s Highland Market.  “This was where my heart was.  Having your own business is something you can build, run, succeed or fail.  Whatever happens, you only have yourself to blame.”