The innovation of transport and culture on historic Bayou Road thrives with King & Queen Emporium International, a company supplying handmade soap, oil, incense, and shea butter while fostering healing and spiritual manifestation through its space and products.
Taking a walk down the cobbled, brick pathway that is Bayou Road feels like a walk through New Orleans’ past. It is the oldest road in the city and was once a Native American portage that connected Bayou St. John to the Mississippi River, allowing for the settlement of La Nouvelle-Orléans. Today, it is a black-owned hub providing a sense of culture and community. King & Queen Emporium International has been in operation for 25 years, served at this site for more than a decade, and with its newly painted teal exterior, stands out as a staple in the area.
Andaiye Alimayu is the artist and owner of her self-described retail cultural company King & Queen Emporium International (KQEI). She started selling her handmade products as a means to provide for her son by setting up shop across the city and throughout her native 7th Ward community. It was in this community on Bayou Road that she began renting a room inside a building owned by the Irving family of the Church of I Am That I Am. Eventually, she was offered the opportunity to occupy the building. Alimayu sells her products under this roof, and connects her spirituality through her organization, ‘The Shrine of the Holy Spirit,’ as a “cultural and spiritual conservatory of pure African culture in New Orleans.” She has also incorporated her reggae band “Zion Trinity” and catering business “The Queen’s Kitchen” into the retail space.
“If I wanna sing, tell a story, give workshops or presentations, ‘The Shrine of the Holy Spirit’ is a conservatory of culture,” Alimayu said. Being in the space, she said she has “unlocked her alchemical spiritual and physical powers.”
The products sold at King & Queen Emporium are mostly handmade, all natural or organic. In addition to oil, shea butter, African Black soap and incense, products also include body wash, shampoo, waist beads and herbal, spiritual supplies including sage and products connecting to African deities such as The Orishas. Alimayu’s soap scents vary from lavender and peppermint to unique names including “Bob Marley” and “Big Mama’s Grits.”
“The healing properties in the soaps are stronger, concentrated, and ingredients are natural as opposed to inorganic, commercialized soap,” Alimayu said. She explained the healing properties from KQEI soaps treat everything from dry skin and eczema to acne.
Alimayu attended Xavier University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. This background gives her an advantage in her line of work and allows her to apply her knowledge to determining measurements, what plants to use, what mixes well, and having a grasp on how healing compounds interact. She credits her career and uniqueness of her work and products with spiritual intervention.
“When I mixed the soap one way, The Spirit innovated. […] It’s not good because of me, but because the energy the Holy Spirit puts into me is proportionate to the time that I spend with the Holy Spirit. What you put in is what you get out,” she said.
Alimayu plans to one day manifest the space into a “pure conservatory for arts and crafts” and as an institution on how to make soaps. Serving as a vessel with resources and guidance from higher powers, her ancestors and background as a chemist; Alimayu and the future of King & Queen Emporium International shines bright and stands as one of a kind.