Making it in NOLA: Catherine Markel of Faubourg Wines

When Catherine Markel decided to open Faubourg Wines on the St. Claude Corridor, she knew there would be opposition. Controversy over the New Orleans neighborhood’s gentrification is an ongoing subject, and some residents worried that the shop wouldn’t fit in. But the store/bar has quickly become a welcome addition, and feels at home in the ByWater. Small production wines – most made naturally, sustainably, and biodynamically – line the raw wooden shelves. Bare concrete floors, and mis-matched furniture (Catherine scoffed when I described it as an aesthetic) would seem contrived in most locations, but feel sincere at Faubourg. “It’s been great to have people apologize for hating me before I opened.” she laughs. “They’ve been surprised that they can actually shop here.”

Markel says she’s not a wine expert, but has a knack for pairings and enjoys figuring out what other people will like. She sees a danger in knowing too much, and dreads talking over people’s heads. “The most important thing is keeping it really accessible and not alienating people, no matter what kind of wine they want to drink, how educated they are about wine, or how much they want to pay for their wine.” Most of the bottles at Faubourg are under $15, and they have a rotating selection of $5 glasses. They also stock cheeses from St James Cheese Company & fresh bread from Bellegarde Bakery in Broadmoor. Catherine says that working with other local shops is great for her business, and its all part of the good spirit among the new crop of small business owners in New Orleans.


Young entrepreneurs like Catherine are social media savvy, and rely heavily on Facebook to connect with their customers. “When you’re running a business, and you’re just one person,  it’s nearly impossible to get everything done,” Markel explains. A Facebook page was an obvious 1st step because she didn’t have time for anything else, and social media makes spreading the word amazingly easy. Besides promoting Faubourg’s own events (such as free wine tastings on Wednesdays and food truck Fridays with Empanada Intifada ) their Facebook feed is filled with tidbits about life and other events in the city.

Markel’s enthusiasm for wine is obvious, and her vigor extends to every aspect of the business. Faubourg Wines won a loan from the South Central Planning and Development Commission (a revolving Capital Fund set up to spur economic progress after Katrina) in what Markel describes as a “Shark Tank-like” pitch session. The entrepreneur has been smart about utilizing the city’s business resources. The Louisiana Small Business Development Center was a go-to throughout the process, and the New Orleans Business Alliance helped with inevitable bureaucratic hurdles. “I would have given up ten times if not for them.”

We asked Catherine for tips on two of our favorite subjects – Starting a business in New Orleans and drinking wine:

  1. Don’t take no for an answer. (Especially when dealing with city government.) People will say you can’t do it, but if you have a really great idea, you have to find a way around it.
  2. Tell everyone what you’re doing. That can be scary because if you fail, everyone will know, but your chances of success are much higher if you talk to anyone who will listen because you never know who can help.
  3. There’s always a place to start. When it comes to wine, a lot of people are afraid to reveal a level of ignorance. Its not your job to know anything about wine. Just come in and taste a few things, and we can go from there.

Faubourg Wines is located at 2805 St. Claude Ave. NOLA  70117. Visit their website for more information.