As Pride Month is well underway and Baton Rouge Pride Fest approaches, we’re celebrating in one of the best ways we can—by shopping local! For BRASS and Circa 1857 owners Garrett Kemp and Luke Lognion, shopping local at one of Baton Rouge’s many LGBTQ+ owned businesses is the biggest way to support the LGBTQ+ community. While the sister stores already exist to promote local makers, Garrett and Luke are always finding new ways to help the Capital City grow into a space for everyone to enjoy year-round.
The Visit Baton Rouge team sat down with Garrett and Luke to learn more about how they started their stores and what community means to them.
VBR: How did both of the companies—BRASS and Circa 1857—begin?
Garrett Kemp: I purchased Circa from the former owner in 2016. Luke and I met in 2019 and then got married. In the middle of planning a wedding, we decided to open up BRASS. We felt that BR, but downtown, in particular, needed some sort of retail attraction.
Luke Lognion: We scoped out the spot for BRASS, and the price wasn't quite right. We came back, and the spot was still vacant, so we asked what we could do to get in this space. The price was right and we decided to rent it. We ended up opening up a little bit over a month after we got the keys. We had to paint, get all the vendors, all the inventory, all of that ready in about a month… and get married in between! It was a lot of work but so far it has been working out really well.
VBR: As for BRASS, what encouraged you to open a gift store in Baton Rouge?
LL: There is almost no retail downtown. There are bars, restaurants, a men's suits store, but no real general gift shop. Nothing that tourists and residents would want to come to. We had just gotten Mid-City Makers Market to go to Circa to host their monthly event that is now switched to quarterly. But that was fresh in our minds, so we were thinking about ways to get a permanent location for these Baton Rouge artists and makers to sell their goods to show what Baton Rouge culture and art life has to bring to the culture of Louisiana in general. We wanted to try to source it as local as possible.
GK: As far as our displays go, we wanted to try to carry over some of that antique decor from Circa at least into the concept of the store, so most of our displays except four of them are antique or vintage pieces that we thought for the recognizability of the brand we want to keep it in relation to the “sister store” Circa.
VBR: How does it feel to be an LGBTQ+ owned business in Baton Rouge?
GK: I just feel like… we own a business!
LL: Right, we just own a business! That is one thing about Baton Rouge – we’ve never really had any sort of harassment coming from customers because we have a Pride flag hanging outside at Circa. There have been no real insults or one-star reviews on Google because of that.
GK: Often our highest liked posts on Instagram are our photos of us together! Along with our Dachshund, who is also gay!
VBR: Are BRASS and Circa doing anything special for Pride Month?
LL: We will be spotlighting our queer artists and makers on our social platforms throughout the month. We will be hosting a raffle for a gift basket and a $50 gift card to Circa and pulling other income sources to profit a Baton Rouge LGBTQ+ charity/non-profit.
GK: We don’t know the exact charity yet, but we definitely want it to be a local group. We’ll be posting updates about the raffle and winners on our social media.
VBR: What can the readers of VBR do this Pride month to help support the community?
GK: The biggest thing we have said a lot of times is to continue to shop local. We aren’t the only shops owned by gay people. Shopping local, whether or not it is an LGBTQ+-centric store, it is always just the most important thing. Places like Amazon or Walmart, they will change their cover photo to having a Pride photo but other than that they aren't helping the backbone of the community. A large percentile of our clientele at both Circa and BRASS is gay and we have made great friends and colleagues through that. And that is from them shopping local as opposed to Walmart.
LL: The biggest thing is…. It doesn't have to be during Pride month. Shop local, try and grow the city that you're in one step at a time and the best way to do that is to keep the money in the city.
VBR: Are there any plans for the future of BRASS and Circa?
GK: The main goal for both stores is to continue to grow. Circa does have a little bit of availability to coast, but as far as BRASS, we are trying to make sure that people around this area understand that they don't have to run all over town for local goods… we are right here. We always say “there is always a birthday in the office.” We want to make sure we are known amongst all of these office buildings. If you are running late for a meeting, but you need to grab a gift… we are right here.
Are you ready to join Luke and Garrett in shopping locally? Keep up with them on Instagram and Facebook, and be sure to shop at all the LGBTQ+ owned businesses in Baton Rouge!