Anti-French sentiment in Louisiana proves to be a boon for small business.
In an October 1803 address, Thomas Jefferson said the "enlightened government of France" had entered into an agreement with the United States that would "permanently promote the peace, friendship, and interests of both." Two hundred years later -- following the mother of all dustups between Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush -- Francophile business owners find themselves circling the Renaults. In New Orleans, local businesses assumed a Louisiana Purchase bicentennial event in December -- with a planned visit by French President Chirac -- would boost tourism. Some now fear that anti-French sentiment will hurt business during the commemoration or on Bastille Day, July 14. Louisiana -- which W. carried by 135,000 votes in 2000 -- is home to $1.8 billion in French investment, and roughly 10,000 jobs depend on French trade.
"It's crazy to boycott small businesses that have nothing to do with politics," says Damien Regnard, of the French-American Chamber of Commerce, "but I'm convinced the celebration will be affected."
However, the deep-seated French heritage in the Big Easy seems to have local consumers overcompensating for the potential losses. Cary Rene Bonnecaze, whose Vive la France stores sell home furnishings like Boutis de Provence, says "there used to be more French flags in the Quarter, but actually since the negative media started, revenues are way up over last year." Similarly, Gerard Crozier, owner and head chef at Chateaubriand, says, "I had one customer ask to have a Perrier poured into a glass so nobody could see the bottle, but that's it."