The president of Louisiana’s oldest general store recently received a state proclamation recognizing 150 years of operating in Natchitoches. Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile was in business during the American Civil War.
It was founded by Prussian immigrant brothers, according to Luke Frederick, who is the third generation in the Frederick family to run the store. Frederick says the Kaffie brothers were well respected businessmen in Natchitoches parish.
“As was common for Jewish businessmen, they first started out traveling -- selling out of a wagon -- through the countryside. In 1863, they saved enough capital to open a brick and mortar store in Natchitoches,” Frederick said.
Frederick went to work as a cashier at Kaffie-Frederick in 1989. He returned to Natchitoches after college during a job slump in the state.
He says today he’s filled the store on Front Street with about half hardware and tools and half giftware and specialty items.
“I tell people that we sell everything from water pipe to a Waterford Crystal, and we also concentrate on providing merchandise that’s a little higher quality than you’d find at a Wal-Mart or a Home Depot,” Frederick said.
He just returned from a dealer market show in Chicago. He finds that he must stay ahead of merchandising trends to keep an independent hardware store relevant today because competing against big-box retailers is tough. He believes his customer service is what keeps Kaffie-Frederick in business.