The rabais man, 1904 -- Well into the 20th century, some New Orleanians
still referred to a dry-goods or notions store as a "rabais shop," although,
by that time, they may not have known where the term originated.
The Rabais Man
Among the many and varied street vendors in New Orleans'
colorful history, a
Daily Picayune newspaper article from
1846 describes one who offered a wide selection of notions:
"He would walk through the neighborhoods crying, 'Au
(The rabais man always claimed to undersell his
competitors -- '
Au rabais' is best translated as 'off price.')"
The following is from "The Times-Picayune's Guide to
New Orleans," published in 1904:
"In the French Market and down in the Faubourg Marigny,
shopkeepers still adhere to the customs of the French
merchants of a hundred years ago. arranging their wares
on the banquette, to attract the attention of the passersby.
" 'Bon marche, Madame, bon marche!', they cry.  You will meet
a curious old peddler with a little wagon on wheels.  He is one
of the last of the famous old
marchand rabais of olden days.
"Each rabais had his own list of regular customers, and what
you couldn't get in the way of fancy trimmings in the big stores
Uptown, you were sure to find in his 'little store on wheels.' "
For the most part, the distinctive street vendors of New
Orleans can now only be found in history books and faded
photographs.  There are a few remaining vegetable vendors,
who, today, travel the neighborhoods in pick-up trucks.
But the unique vendors who shouted their wares in lyrical
French patois are no longer with us.  Gone are the shaving
cake man, bottle man, clothes pole man, tin-a-fixy man, pie
man, ring man.  Gone are the flower, praline and cala women.
Today, we sit at computers and order products from all over the
world.  But I wonder if we're as delighted with our purchases as
our g-grandmothers were when they heard the call of the cala
woman in the quiet early morning of old New Orleans:
"Belle cala!  Tout chaud!" -- and they ran to get fresh,
hot calas to go with their first cup of coffee.  -- Nancy
And I'm happy to say that the Roman Candy man still roams
the streets in his wagon.