I‘m having a very ‘Americana nostalgia’ day here at MessyNessyChic HQ for some reason (see previous post on all things stuck in the 1950s), which segue-ways into today’s second time travelling discovery. I first spotted this retired mid-century diner in the archives of the instagram account American Squares. “A junk store built around an old Woolworth’s diner on Magazine Street in New Orleans,” read the photo caption. But after a little digging, I’ve learned that it’s a junk shop no more, but something even better– a record store! And not just any record store…
Peaches Records first opened in 1975 at a location across town and quickly became a favourite local music hub in the city as well as a supportive home for the local hip hop community, helping launch the careers of Nola musicians.
Still a family-run business, run by the warm and eccentric Ms. Shirani Rea, Peaches Records’ secret to longevity is that it has always stuck with the local clientele, changing retail locations if they become too gentrified and moving to the neighbourhoods where tourism hasn’t pushed out the real community.
Four decades later, that place is 4318 Magazine Street, a former Uptown Woolworth’s store, which after all these years, still kept its authentic 1940s luncheonette counter in tact.
These things belong in museums. In fact, one Woolworth’s counter is actually preserved in the National Museum of American History, because it was at a counter exactly like this one that set the scene for the famous Greensboro sit-ins of 1960 (pictured), protests against racial segregation caused by Jim Crow laws, which led to the Woolworth department store chain removing its policy of racial segregation in the Southern United States.
Many of Peaches Records’ customers remember growing up going to Woolworth’s for lunch with their parents. Today, where they might have once eaten a lemon meringue pie, a local DJ is now spinning a rare 70s vinyl.
If you’ve ever watch one of my favourite 90s movies, Empire Records, you start to get the feeling that Peaches Records might just be the real deal.
It’s the indie record store every neighbourhood should have. Always welcoming touring musicians as well as nurturing and showcasing local talent, in 2014, Miss Rea (the Mama bear of Peaches, pictured above), was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the NOLA Hip-Hop Awards.
Some customers love this place so much they even decided to get married at Peaches.
And of course there’s the store’s resident bulldog Sir Winston Pepperbottoms, who can be found lurking in the classical music section.
As for the old Woolworth’s self-service diner, Miss Rea’s dream is not just to preserve it but to make it fully operational again.
“Food is at the heart of our city right there along with the incredible music it produces. We want to support the community and bring people together with music, food, and culture.”
With increasing demand from community members for Peaches “to do something about the counter situation”, they launched a crowd-funding campaign to ensure the former owner allows them to keep the counter and pay for it to become a real luncheonette once again. The campaign still has a ways to go to see that happen, but thankfully for now, it doesn’t look like this historic counter is going anywhere.
If you feel so inclined, you can help support this local business with their time capsule diner project here. Right on.