- Associated Press
Sunday, June 14, 2020

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - “If I don’t act today it will never happen,” said Cassie Stone one morning in 2017. “It will be a missed dream.″

Stone had just ended her 15-year career in pharmaceutical sales and hoped to become the entrepreneur she had dreamed of. There was just one problem - she did not really know what she wanted her business to be.

Stone thought about it, then talked about it, bounced ideas around with her friends, and then thought some more.

It was when her friend, Darla Provenza, stopped by her house that the answer finally came. “I know what you need to do!” said Proventza as she looked around Stone’s house, “You need to have an art and garden store.″

As Stone considered it, she realized her friend had a point. Stone was an avid art collector, particularly of Louisianan art. And she did love gardening, container gardening to be precise. She would even go as far to say that these two things were her passions. But did that make it enough to become her store?

For every yes there was a no, maybe even more. People were quick to tell her why it would never work. She listened to their warnings, but she also listened to her heart.

All this led to that fateful morning where she woke up thinking, if not today then never.

Stone located an available storefront in South Highland. It was not exactly everything she had wanted, but she knew she had to be flexible if she wanted to succeed.

She called the owner and negotiated a lease that very day for the 750-square foot retail space in South Highland.

In April 2018 318Art&Garden opened its doors and Stone’s dream became a reality.

The carefully curated artisanal gifts and art gallery focuses on Stone’s love of Louisiana. Stone secured the artists’ work by walking around the art galleries of New Orleans and getting the names of the artists that resonated with her.

Follette pottery was one of the first products she acquired. The earthware is created by Libby and Kent Follette who have been making pottery together for 50 years. They live in Gonzales.

She commissioned New Orleans artist Jax Freyto, who paints little square paintings of New Orleans, to paint some scenes of Shreveport.

As Stone walks around the store she will stop at an object and tell the story about who made it. Her love of Louisiana art shines through.

It was that love that led Stone to reach out to textile artist Tressie Jordan after seeing her work on the Instagram page, bayouvoodoo. The relationship between the two businesswomen has been beneficial for both. 318Art&Garden was the second store to sell Jordan’s one-of-a kind voodoo dolls, and the two of them have been able to work together well.

“She is amazing, she has been nothing but helpful to me,” said Jordan. “I feel privileged to be able to sell my work in Shreveport at 318Art&Garden.”

The large voodoo dolls are one of the most popular items in the store.

As the first year came to an end, any fears Stone might have had dissipated. Her intensive social media marketing was paying off. “We not only survived but we thrived.″

The only problem Stone was able to find was the confines of the 750 square feet. “We realized that we were limited and that we could do so much more if we had more space”.

Stone looked around at other places but got cold feet when it came to making a commitment. She did not want to move to a larger and colder space and risk losing the charm that made the store what it was.

“You have to dance with the one who brung you, so we didn’t want to lose the charm. We wanted people to be able to see more.″

Stone learned that the store located next door, which occupied 1,700 square feet, was going to move upstairs. This created the perfect opportunity to expand her store while keeping all the charm. The doors to the new space opened three weeks ago.

“As soon as we moved over here, thanks to the city of Shreveport, we have sold so much art that it is a blessing.”

As Stone reflects back on her journey she counts her blessings.

“When people walk out that door and they say, ‘Thank you for doing this for our community, we will be back, we support you’… hearing those words make me feel the most proud that I felt about any business that I have ever done in my entire life,” said Stone.

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