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Choice Marketplace fosters new business growth

LAPLACE — There are plenty of treasures to be found at Choice Marketplace, a safe environment where new businesses come to grow.

In 2018, Bishop Antoine Jasmine of Choice International Ministries shared his vision of an economic development hub that small business owners could utilize while securing the financial resources necessary to move to larger office buildings.

That vision is coming to fruition at 1005 Cambridge Drive in LaPlace, the site of the old Riverlands Skate Center. Dayna James, owner of United Front Transportation Services and a passionate member of the River Region Chamber of Commerce, has been charged with operating the Choice Marketplace.

The marketplace is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each Saturday.

“I’m all about positivity in the community, and that’s what I want to implement in St. John because I love people, I love the River Region and I love to see businesses grow. I believe this is a place where they can grow,” James said.

Dayna James

Plans for the building began taking shape with a Christmas toy giveaway.

James got a call from her sister-in-law, TaQuana Mason, in winter 2019. Mason’s son, RayQuan, had recently passed away, and she planned to hold a toy giveaway for special needs children in his honor.

The first event was successful, and it was followed by a Valentine’s Day pop-up. However, James saw the potential of the space encompassed much more than seasonal pop-ups. The dream came further into focus when James visited the German Coast Farmers Market in St. Charles Parish and saw how it was operating for the good of the community.

COVID-19 brought the plans to a pause, but the start of the Phase II Reopening introduced the new Choice Marketplace.

Every Saturday, the community can find a collection of boutique-quality clothing for men, women and children. Facemasks, hats, belts, purses and Paparazzi jewelry are among the accessories offered.

There’s always good food to eat at the Choice Marketplace, from boiled seafood and shrimp burgers, hot wings and loaded fries. One vendor from Edgard who sells delicious fish and shrimp platters recently brought along a snowball truck to help people beat the heat. Sweet tooths meet their match at booths that sell mouthwatering cakes and pies.

Malou’s Southern Eatery, left, and Sunset Slush Nola, right, recently made appearances at the Choice Marketplace.

One young woman attended Choice Marketplace last week with her own line of T-shirts and did a live podcast. James was impressed to see her podcast initiate powerful conversations about suicide and the pain of losing a parent.

James keeps in contact with the economic development directors in St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and St. James parishes. She wants to connect the vendors with parish officials to ensure they fill out all the necessary paperwork and take advantage of the resources available to help their businesses thrive.

The growth mindset is what separates a marketplace from a pop-up shop, according to James.

“It’s not a pop-up anymore. I tell them, this is your storefront. You have to advertise your business how I promote United Front,” James said. “If you want to be successful, you have to fight for your business. You can start here, get your business advertised and get all the paperwork that you need. When you’ve grown, you can move on to get a store.”

As the Choice Marketplace grows, James hopes to make it a stop for travel buses full of tourists. She also hopes to incorporate fresh produce vendors.

“You’ll see them on Airline Highway, which is not the safest location,” James said. “They can come here and sell produce inside the building or outside. They can sell even if it rains.”

Safety is a priority at the Choice Marketplace. Vendors must wear masks and have hand sanitizer at their stations. James stands near the front entrance to sanitize and give facemasks to those in need.

For more information or to get involved, please contact James at 504-319-2483.