Entrepreneur: Cary Bonnecaze
Photography by Brian Baiamonte
COMPANYBonnecaze Absinthe & Home Wholesale
POSITION Founder and owner
WHAT THEY DO Manufacturing, wholesale and retail of reproduction French antique pieces
ADDRESS 14763 Florida Blvd.; Bonnecaze.com
NEXT GOALS Expand absinthe ware to European market
A DIFFERENT BEAT
Cary Bonnecaze likens launching his own business to starting a band. As the co-founding drummer for Better Than Ezra, Bonnecaze knows a little something about the hard work it takes to turn a passion into something much bigger—but he still believes there’s always a degree of luck at play. “I always thought it would be neat to settle down and try something I’ve never done before,” Bonnecaze says of his decision to leave the band he helped form while at LSU after eight years—during which they found mainstream success in the mid-1990s with the hit single “Good.” For his next venture, Bonnecaze tapped into his French roots and turned to his passion for collecting antique absinthe spoons and glasses.
In 1998, Bonnecaze opened Vive la France, a gift shop in the French Quarter that carried French food, magazines, soaps, perfumes and kitchen items, including antique absinthe spoons. The popularity of the intricately designed spoons led Bonnecaze to begin selling reproductions of other accoutrements for drinking absinthe, like fountains and glasses. By 2006, Bonnecaze was selling absinth ware wholesale around the country as well as to stores in Canada. Timing worked in his favor. When absinthe was finally legalized in the U.S. a year later, he was the only wholesale domestic distributor of antique and reproduced absinthe ware—and remains so today, selling to mom-and-pop shops as well as large retailers like Anthropologie and Frontgate.
After absinthe was legalized, Bonnecaze changed the name of his store to Maison d’Absinthe and began dealing in absinthe related wares exclusively. He eventually decided to close the brick-and-mortar store, and in 2013—after spending a few years outside Louisiana—returned to his native Baton Rouge to launch Bonnecaze Absinthe & Home Wholesale. Headquartered on Florida Boulevard, the company focuses heavily on the wholesaling but also sells its wares to the public via a website called Maison Absinthe, where customers can purchase spoons, glasses, fountains and more. Bonnecaze takes pride in the quality of his products, the majority of which are made in Asia, shipped stateside and branded with the company name and often, the city.
BEYOND BATON ROUGE
A self-described “people person,” Bonnecaze loves sharing the storied history of absinthe and his products—which still include period decor from 19th century France—with customers. For example, after seeing the popularity of his marble bistro tables, which he now sells all over the world, Bonnecaze is looking to other items from the era that haven’t previously been reproduced or aren’t well known. In the coming months, he will begin selling an absinthe glass to rival a similar type sold by the famed La Rochère glassmaker. With plans to travel to Paris to scout European distributors, Bonnecaze has his sights set on taking on other parts of the world with his absinthe products.