French Quarter One-of-a-Kind Series: Uncommon Scents

By: Tara McLellan

Top to bottom: Hové Parfumeurs Owner Amy van Calsem Wendel, Perfumed strips each featuring hand-blended Hové scents, Hové room scents and scented candles.

When visiting Hové Parfumeurs in the heart of the French Quarter there are two things you can be sure of – the word “change” is spoken in hushed tones, and what’s old is always new again.

“This is a truly original New Orleans family business,” says Amy van Calsem Wendel, fourth generation owner of Hové. “We are not big on change around here. Of course we have grown with the times, such as installing computers and streamlining mail orders, but we like the way things have worked for the past seventy years.” At Hové, paperwork takes on new meaning. Van Calsem Wendel and her family have transferred decades of index cards with customers’ preferences and orders into their computer system. “We keep everything. We remember people and traditions,” she says, “And we think that is what keeps people coming back to us.”

History is important not only in the traditions the shop carries on but also in the fragrances Hové creates, and in the family business itself. “Hové has always been a part of my family, and now we are so proud to continue with that tradition,” says van Calsem Wendel. Located in the home of a family member since its opening, Hové Parfumeurs gives new meaning to bringing your work home with you. “We live above the shop, its third location, and now our children have the opportunity to grow up in the Hové tradition. We create all of our fragrances right here, and they can see it all happening first hand. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Classic scents with a personal touch keep customers coming back for more. Opened in 1931 by Mrs. Alvin Hovey-King, Hové Parfumeur focuses on providing the finest fragrances for men and women. Now offering more than 53 fragrances, van Calsem Wendel learned the trade secrets from watching and studying family traditions. “Learning this business is an ongoing process, because we are always creating new fragrances, improving old fragrances, and providing custom blends for customers,” she says. “It’s also very important to get those favorite old fragrances just right, the ones our customers remember from childhood.”

It’s those old favorites that continue to enchant New Orleanians and visitors alike. These traditional Creole concoctions, with names like tea olive, or sweet olive, spanish moss, and vetivert, have been used throughout New Orleans for generations. According to van Calsem Wendel the histories of each blend are unique. “Tea olive, for example, was used for its aromatic properties and was often steeped like black tea. Vetivert root, on the other hand, had a stronger quality that was used throughout the home, in armoirs and dresses, pillowcases and bedlinens, as well as a scent to be carried throughout town as a fan.” To many the unique woodsy and naturally sweet smells of vetivert and tea olive are as much a part of their own history and it is of the city of New Orleans. “These fragrances are a piece of history. Generations grew up with them in their home. It’s a unique gift from the past that we are fortunate to be able to pass on to the next generation.”

Stepping through the 18th century doors of Hové Parfumeur is at once a lesson in aromatherapy, New Orleans history, and French Quarter customs. “We often get asked, what’s unique about living and working in the French Quarter? There’s never one answer to that question,” says van Calsem Wendel. “It’s a truly unique experience, from the history to the beautiful courtyards, and of course, the food. We like to see ourselves as an integral part of that experience, right up there with Dixie Beer and the Central Grocery.” Around here, some things never change. And maybe, in Hové Parfumeur’s case, that’s a good thing.

Hové® Parfumeur
824 Royal Street
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hours of Operation: Mon – Sat. 10AM- 5PM

Tara McLellan, a freelance writer, book author, and columnist, has been featured in Metropolitan Home Magazine, New Orleans Magazine, New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles, and St. Charles Avenue Magazine. She lives and works in the New Orleans area.