Owner’s arrest stirs concern about future of Spanish Town Market

    Despite an arrest of the store’s owner earlier this month on drug charges, the Spanish Town Market at 701 Spanish Town Road remains open for business. But Spanish Town residents and downtown business leaders are concerned about the future of the store, which has a long and, at times checkered, history in the neighborhood.

    “The store itself has been an important component in the Spanish Town neighborhood for many years,” says Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer. “Certainly there would be concern if the viability of the store is jeopardized.”

    East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’ deputies arrested store’s owner Taylor Blanche on Feb. 12 and booked him on felony drug charges, including possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute LSD and possession of drug paraphernalia. According to the arrest record, an informant told investigators Blanche was dealing drugs out of the store and his home, though deputies say drugs were only found in a subsequent search at his home. East Baton Rouge Parish Prison records Blanche bonded out of jail on the same day of his arrest.

    Blanche bought the nearly-100-year-old store, which for decades was known as Capitol Grocery, in early 2013 and changed its name that summer. He also applied for a permit to sell packaged liquor, which led to a divisive battle in the neighborhood. The state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control ultimately denied the permit application.

    Longtime Spanish Town resident and real estate professional Darryl Gissel says neighbors wish only the best for the store, which is an institution in the historic neighborhood. However, he adds, “this story is troubling.”

    A store employee who answered the phone this morning says that for now it’s business as usual at the store. He declined to give his name, but says Blanche is not currently working there. Blanche could not be reached for comment.

    —Stephanie Riegel

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