BUSINESS

Local musician and chef helps open Oxford’s new Chicory Market

Laurie

Laurie stands in front of Chicory Market. Photo by Mattie Thrasher

 

Mattie Thrasher
Oxford Stories

Laurie Stirratt grew up in New Orleans. Her home was an older fishing village near Lake Pontchartrain, and there was a lot to do outside, such as crabbing, fishing, hunting and sailing. She also remembers the wildlife – alligators, snakes and bobcats.

In this small village town of about 3,000 people, she got into music at an early age. Around age 10, she began playing guitar, piano and flute in a school band. The flute was not her dream instrument. Instead, she wanted to play the drums.

Around this age, her parents bought her a stereo system, and she fell in love with music. The Beatles, Flaming Groovies, David Bowie, and Neil Young were many of the first artists she listened to. As she grew, her taste expanded to underground style, such as Smiths, The Cure, and other British community radio music.

Her love for music came from her records and her father, who plays banjo in a New Orleans band now. After high school, Stirratt attended college for a year, but realized she wanted to play music. So, she tried to find bands to play with around New Orleans, but most musicians there were into jazz and blues. Stirratt was into rock, like the Replacements.

Luckily, her twin brother, John, started a band in Oxford, and they needed a bass player. So in 1987, she moved to Oxford, toured with John for three years and released records.

In 1993, she the band Blue Mountain with Cary Hudson. They released six or seven records and toured. For 25 years, she was a full-time musician.

“It was grueling, although we made good money, there are always ups and downs,” Stirratt said. “Sometimes, we would have to sleep on the floor, because on the road, you never know what is going to happen, but I’m glad I got to live my dream. I really enjoyed it while I had a chance. Everything has its climb, peak, and descent. The band was waning, so I opened up my restaurant.”

Stirratt’s restaurant opened in 2009, but she went back into music with Blue Mountain for a year. However, she and Hudson parted ways creatively.

After the band broke up, she moved back to New Orleans, then to Oxford. When the first owner of the Farmers Market offered her a job, Stirratt accepted.

Market

Laurie stocks the front of the store. Photo by Mattie Thrasher

The business was recently purchased and is now called Chicory Market. It is owned by John and Cate Martin. Stirratt is the manager. A typical day is different from her musician lifestyle. She now rises around 6 a.m.

In the morning, she makes coffee, walks her dog, gardens, and plays/writes music. Her garden is a work in progress. Since Chicory Market is new, she works long hours because she is helping with the store’s transition. She enjoys the challenge of managing and the physical job because she said she’s not great at sitting around.

John Martin appreciates Stirratt’s determination. “Laurie is one of the most kind, generous, and hardworking people, as well as a talented chief,” he said. “She really anchors us here at Chicory Market. It wouldn’t be as perfect without her here.”

In 1998, Martin said he knew Stirratt from the band Blue Mountain. He saw her perform in college, and said it was rare to see a female bass player in a band.

Several years later, the Farmers Market owner told Martin Stirratt was involved, so when John and Cate opened Chicory, they asked Stirratt to work with them. Martin said it was a full circle experience from seeing her in the band in college to working with her.

Chicory Market

Chicory Market has pumpkins for fall. Photo by Mattie Thrasher

Stirratt enjoys working with local farmers and vendors because it makes her feel closer to her community. She hopes she is making a difference.

“It’s good for people in the community to have the option, so they know where their food comes from and how the animals are treated,” she said. “These types of markets are coming back, and it makes people feel good, because they get the chance to meet the farmer, which brings a closer sense of community.”

Also, she believes the market bridges a gap in the community with the wealthy, poor, gay, trans, straight, old, young, etc.

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