Jean Bragg brought a little corner of New Orleans to Macon


Image: Drew Daws

Jean Bragg was born in Middle Georgia, and after spending 40 years in New Orleans, she returned to Macon.

Drew Daws, Contributing Writer

Walking into the then-dilapidated buildings on Cherry Street, Jean Bragg knew that a challenging task lie ahead. Returning to her hometown, she wanted to take on a project that would allow her to bring a little New Orleans back to Macon.

Bragg was born and raised in Middle Georgia. After living in New Orleans for nearly 40 years, she returned to Macon, bringing her love of antiques and art with her.  

“I grew up in south Macon. Prior to leaving, I was teaching at Macon Junior College, which is now Middle Georgia State University,” she said. While teaching at the university, Bragg taught pitman shorthand, since women were still secretaries at the time.

Bragg and her husband moved to New Orleans in 1970 when she worked for IBM and was the first female employee in the Office Products Division for the company in New Orleans.

Bragg was captivated by the beautiful art and antiques on Magazine Street, which is the center of the city’s antique district.

“Everywhere you went in New Orleans, they had antique shops. I originally began buying prints and etchings. Later in life, I progressed to buying original pieces. I opened my first antique shop with a friend in 1980,” she said.  

In 1985, Bragg closed her shop in New Orleans and moved to Atlanta where she traveled on the road doing professional antique shows.

“I had an opportunity to meet so many people both in the business as well as customers that came to the shows,” Bragg said.

However, New Orleans had become her home. In 1990, Bragg returned to the city, this time opening an antique shop on Magazine Street. The store was open until 2005, when she opened an art gallery showcasing Louisiana art. The art gallery remained open until 2015.

In 2010, Bragg began to contemplate returning to her hometown of Macon. A single woman, she wished to be closer to her family.

“I had a brother and two sisters who had some heart problems. One day I came home, and I began to look in downtown Macon. I decided if I were to come back home, I was going to have to create my own little New Orleans,” she said.

After looking at several condos in downtown, NewTown Macon approached Bragg about purchasing 530 Cherry St., as well as the two buildings next to it.

“There was so much work. There was water in the basement, and the front was deplorable. The buildings’ facades were covered primarily from May of 2013 until March of 2014,” she said.

Bragg enjoys taking on different projects, and realized she had the opportunity to “change the block dramatically.”

The lofts above Travis Jean Emporium, her new Macon shop, are about 2,100 square feet and provide residents with plenty of room for all of their belongings.

“Smaller units are selling better to young professionals. I elected to build out for the older group, with larger units and more storage space,” she said.

With the number of downtown residents increasing, Bragg also wanted to provide events for members of the community to enjoy.

“Recently, we’ve formed a Downtown Macon Community Association, which consists of people who live, work and invest in downtown,” she said.

The Association plans to sponsor the Mardi Gras festival, which took place on Cherry Street this year. The street was blocked off from Second Street to Third Street and was a great chance to bring members of downtown and Mercer together, Bragg said. She plans to serve as president of the association.   

Bragg also expects to add three other annual events to the calendar. The Association hopes to have one original party per quarter, including Mardi Gras and possibly a Halloween parade.

Travis Jean now serves as an event space and the Emporium showcases many of the antiques she brought back from New Orleans. Bragg looks forward to Macon’s future and is thankful for the opportunity to be a part of Macon’s revitalization.

“It was a strengthening factor for me to be able to walk back in to Macon and make it my home. I brought with me my experience and love for antiques and Louisiana art.”