The Cajun Expats

The Entrepreneur: Nicolas Perkin

Sipping a Jack Daniel’s milk punch—while pushing his 3-month-old daughter in a stroller—Nicolas Perkin, 38, stood by a turtle-filled pond in Audubon Park, in the Uptown section of New Orleans. A flock of wild Monk parrots flew over his head. “It’s like Star Trek here, some planet no one’s ever seen before. … I spent my childhood going to Central Park to escape the insanity,” he said. “This serves the same purpose.”

He and his pals call JetBlue “the Jitney.” They can fly into Manhattan at 7 a.m., “do a meeting” and then fly home in time for a late-ish dinner the same day. “It actually takes a shorter time than going out to the Hamptons in the summer.”

Mr. Perkin, who runs “an eBay-like marketplace for selling receivables,” went to Tulane in New Orleans, and the town never got out from under of his skin.

He takes the streetcar to work instead of a subway, clanging toward downtown with the windows open. But it can be ugly in New Orleans, where crack houses and muggers still thrive. With a new child, does he worry about safety, as New Orleans nearly always tops the list of murder capitals for cities its size? “I’m a tough person,” he said. “I had a gun pointed to my head at 17, during a robbery. I saw a classmate of mine stabbed at 16. New York in the ’70s and ’80s, when I grew up, you could be mugged on your way to school in broad daylight. As a New Yorker, I just know to never go where I shouldn’t be.”

The Artist: Alex Beard

No one could say that Alex Beard was hurting when he decided to move to New Orleans this past spring. He had a namesake Soho gallery of his own and a recent, favorable write-up in Vanity Fair. His Impossible Puzzles were selling in bookstore chains. He even had a children’s book coming out.

Mr. Beard, who is 39, studied at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts, where he was a fixture in the coffee house set, sketching paintings, often dressed in a sarong (he’d traveled all over Africa and India; the look stuck), and editing an alternative culture tabloid called Tribe.

Mr. Beard, the nephew of the notorious playboy-photographer Peter Beard, moved back to New York post-Katrina, opening his gallery on Mercer Street near Prince.
A year ago, he was shopping for a new apartment, and found one he liked. But a would-be neighbor complained that the artist’s paint fumes and turpentine would poison his child, infiltrating her room. “And the guy lived outside of the Holland Tunnel,” laughed Mr. Beard, standing with a mug of Café du Monde coffee, outside his new gallery on Antiques Row, Royal Street, in the Vieux Carre. “I ran into a buzz saw with the co-op board. The guy blackballed me.”

It was then that he received a call that a space in New Orleans was coming available, an old hat shop famous in the city. “I heard about the New Orleans space on a Friday, took it on Tuesday. All of that came together in one week.”

Mr. Beard is all grown up now, with two children and a wife, whom he met in Louisiana.

“Everything is just easier here,” he continued. “It’s more conducive in New Orleans to making great art … because you’re not having to fight all the peripheral crap. You just have more time to clear your mind.”

The Cajun Expats