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Choice Marketplace provides home for business growth

LAPLACE — The best way to handle grief is to funnel it into something productive, according to Bishop Antoine Jasmine.

Over the course of this year, the building that once housed the LaPlace skating rink at 1005 Cambridge Drive in LaPlace has been transformed into a hub for small business owners to share their products with the community.

The new Choice Marketplace is dedicated to Jasmine’s parents, Edward and Diane Jasmine, who passed away from COVID-19 complications within hours of each other on Good Friday.

Plans for a business incubator had been in the works since Choice International Ministries acquired the building in 2018, but this year’s events provided the push needed to make the vision come to life.

“My parents would want me to carry on their legacy,” Jasmine said.

Local business owner Dayna James turned out to be the perfect person to lift Choice Marketplace off the ground. Using connections she’s gained through the River Region Chamber of Commerce, James was able to coordinate a variety of vendors and begin operations in time for the Phase II reopening. She and her husband, Chad, poured heart and soul into the once empty building to create a new, positive space in St. John the Baptist Parish.

From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each Saturday, vendors have safe place to socialize and grow their businesses.

A grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting was held last Friday. The new Choice Marketplace includes 5,000 square feet of renovated space filled with community vendors. Renovation is underway on an additional 15,000 square feet of space in the back of the building, and organizers promise that the best is yet to come.

“The most impressive part is seeing how people are starting to come and see this building as a prominent place in St. John,” James said. “It started as a positive place when it was the skating rink. It’s still a positive place. When people come, they will stick around because of the atmosphere. They don’t want to leave.”

Jasmine said he wanted Choice Marketplace to be a community fixture that extended beyond the walls of the church to welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds. The result, even in such a short amount of time, is more than he imagined.

“It has superseded my expectations,” Jasmine said. “It became a social/incubator type of set-up, and we’re just getting started. We had no idea it would have this much impact.”

Clothing, facemasks, jewelry, home-style food and natural skincare products are only a few examples of treasures that can be found each Saturday at Choice Marketplace.

Stacey Jeffery brought her small business, Stacey’s Sense of Style LLC, to Choice Marketplace.

“It goes with my journey through the Chamber and knowing how everyone connects. The chamber has been the platform connecting businesses from small to industry. This is my way of giving back and using the Chamber’s platform to be here today,” Jeffery said.

April Hill-Barker and Mary Eugene were present at the ribbon cutting Friday, representing Eugene’s Dream Organics.

Each week, Eugene offers an assortment of organic products for the hair and skin. “The skin products in particular are effective for conditions such as eczema and psoriasis,” Eugene said. The organic products are made with light, moisturizing materials such as shea butter and cocoa butter, which also help reduce scarring.

“We do all the things that are healthy and nurturing for the external part of the body, and we’re hoping to move into more internal stuff. Right now, this is our contribution,” Eugene said. “We want people to understand that we love them. You may not like everybody, but we’re called to love everybody, and we want to give them the best. This is our contribution.”

Eugene also sells her products online, but she prefers the in-person interaction she gets from Choice Marketplace.

“This is something totally different. We get to engage,” Eugene said. “Even if they don’t buy anything, you feel like you’ve touched them and made a difference.”

Breia Brown and Marchelle Washington of Breia’s Beauty Bar/ Chelle’s Glam Spot share Eugene’s love for personal interaction.

The mother-daughter duo has been with Choice Marketplace since the market first opened. Each week, they offer $5 Papparazzi Jewelry that’s nickel and lead free.

“This is a home for us. We are here every Saturday,” Washington said. “I don’t do a lot of Facebook. This is my set-up. This is what I prefer, to be in person.”

Among the other vendors present for the ribbon cutting ceremony were Traulishia Johnson of Red Hairstylist Salon, Christina White of Blossom-Blue Candles and Kojuvona Telfair-Singleton, representing her daughter Taylor Singleton’s popular facemask business.

The Malou’s Southern Eatery and Bayou a Snoball food trucks prepared lunch for the guests.

Jasmine said the St. John the Baptist Parish Council and Parish President Jaclyn Hotard have supported Choice Marketplace. The 15,000 square foot renovation is expected to be complete in 2021. According to Jasmine, the expansion could feature a hair salon and amusement for children.

Choice Marketplace is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each Saturday.