NOLA’s in Canton prepares to franchise

Standing inside NOLA’s General Store on Wednesday, owner Elizabeth A. Pier hopes to begin franchising her Canton business. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — Prepare to see more NOLA’s General Stores across the state and beyond, as the flagship location at 11 Main St. in Canton readies itself to be franchised.

Owner Elizabeth A. Pier said that last March, NOLA’s — which sells food and groceries with a New Orleans flair — started working with a franchising company out of Georgia after customers from out of town expressed a desire to see the business elsewhere. She said the company helped NOLA’s put a franchising package together, which took about seven months due to all the paperwork including federal trade documents.

“Now,” Ms. Pier said, “we are ready to take the leap.”

“We are selling franchises where people can buy a NOLA’s,” she said. “We are looking at Rochester, Ithaca, and Burlington as our starting points, but we only want to franchise three stores the first year to get our feet wet before we go national.”

Ms. Pier, who has a background in commercial banking, said franchising the business is in her wheelhouse, and that the Canton location will benefit from the expansion.

“This Canton location is going to become our training facility for future franchisees,” she said. “They will come here to see how we operate, do our books, make our food, and everything. So it will be good because, as we expand, it brings money into our small town and area.”

Ms. Pier owns the building housing NOLA’s, and she said the franchise offices will inhabit the upstairs.

“Hopefully, as we grow, we’ll hire more people to work in our store as well as in our offices,” she said.

She said she is open to start talking to people about franchising, and that those interested can contact her at elizabeth@nolasgeneralstore.com.

The initial franchise cost, she said, is $25,000.

“The total cost ranges depending on what you have. Some businesses already have an eatery and aren’t doing well, so they can buy into our franchise and don’t need a new kitchen that might cost $400,000,” she said. “We can be extremely flexible, whereas a larger franchise sometimes costs more than a million dollars to get up and running, so we’re more affordable.”

Ms. Pier said this franchising opportunity presents an affordable way for someone to be a successful entrepreneur without having to buy into a large corporate philosophy.

“We want each one of our franchisees not just to be NOLA’s, but to bring their own personal touch,” she said. “They can make that franchise personal to them, which is unique.”

As a businesses that is growing rather than shrinking during the pandemic, NOLA’s success can be attributed to its unique business model, Ms. Pier said.

“We have three streams of income from ice cream, the general store, and the food we make, and we focus on the customer,” she said. “We want people to feel welcome and comforted.”

The motto that NOLA’s lives by, she said, is “lagniappe,” which is French for “a little something extra or unexpected.”

This extra little something could manifest itself through kind gestures such as a free cookie, a friendly conversation or a simple smile to jazz up a customer’s day.

“We don’t advertise, so everything we’ve accomplished is by word of mouth,” Ms. Pier said. “But we’ve been super fortunate with our community and the support we’ve had to be able to do what we’ve done, because other people and businesses have truly struggled.”

Passersby may also have noticed the boards covering NOLA’s windows.

Contrary to what it looks like, Ms. Pier said NOLA’s is not shuttering, and that the windstorm earlier this month shattered the window.

“Now,” she said, “we’re just waiting for the new glass.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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