Grocery Matters: The History of Solari’s

Image courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library

For over 100 years, Solari’s was one of the primary food destinations in New Orleans for local shoppers and tourists alike. Operated from 1864 until the 1920s by the Solari family, the shop was known for its exotic imported offerings sold alongside local standards.

It was sold in 1921 but retained its name and its clientele; newspaper advertisements with the tagline “Everybody Shops at Solari’s” were indeed honest advertising, and the store boasted six telephone lines to keep up with its orders for home delivery and shipping.

In 1926 Solari’s underwent a massive remodeling costing over $60,000. A three-day opening party in December ’27 featured twice-daily performances by The Owls Orchestra welcoming throngs of people. The new store featured modern equipment and fixtures, including a marble luncheon counter that would serve generations of shoppers and downtown business people, as well as a new baking department and delicatessen that served ready-to-eat meals.  

Solari’s continued to be a staple of both gourmands and housewives for many years. A 1950 Gourmet magazine article called it “one of America’s finest grocery stores.”

In 1961, new buyers purchased the building and the business with plans to demolish the building and rebuild a six-story parking garage, with a smaller Solari’s space occupying the ground level. While building the new structure, Solari’s operated out of a temporary space at 332 Dryades St., as well as in a satellite store in the venerable department store Maison Blanche.

Solari’s reopened in their Royal Street location in October 1962. Unfortunately, even with the new special features – a cheese cave featuring 75 varieties of international cheese and a 1,600-bottle wine cellar – revenues didn’t keep up with expenses. New owners purchased the building in ’65 and quietly closed Solari’s within the year.

A June 1961 photograph of Royal Street looking toward Canal Street. Solari’s opened as a small grocery in 1864 on the corner of St. Louis and Royal streets, moved to 201 Royal St., pictured here, on the corner of Iberville Street where it remained until it closed in the late ’60s. The space has been occupied by Mr. B’s restaurant since ’79.

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