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Rouses Magazine Celebrates Food, Culture Along Gulf Coast

Rouses magazine

Rouses magazine celebrates the food and culture of the Gulf Coast. The Louisiana-based grocer’s publication marked its 10th anniversary in 2023 and continues to grow in popularity.

Distributed free to customers through its stores in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, each issue is imbued with a deep love of the communities served by Rouses Markets. 

“Food as culture, the music, the people, the places really make it sort of a love letter to the communities that we serve … We have so much food history in there, so that we’re sharing from one community to the next,” said Marcy Nathan, creative director and editor. “I feel like you really learn so much within our magazine.”

Tim Acosta, advertising and marketing director for Rouses Markets, said all celebrations in South Louisiana are centered around food. 

Rouses Markets

“We decided to put this magazine together as a way to celebrate the culture of our communities and our customers on what they do and what the Rouse family enjoys doing, too. We’re local, family owned, third generation, so we want to share what we have learned,” he said.

“The Rouse family is very passionate about the food we sell and passionate about our customers. We want to share those experiences, and we invite our customers to share their experiences back with us, as well.” 

Between 80,000-100,000 copies of Rouses magazine are published quarterly, and each issue has readership of up to 500,000, Nathan said.

Each edition has a theme, with the crawfish issue now in production. The gumbo issue, published in fall 2022, remains one of the most popular. One side featured a cover photo of a brown gumbo. The flip side had a cover of a red gumbo, which contains tomatoes.

The red gumbo section had articles defending the use of tomatoes, which is a matter of debate among many. 

“That’s a super controversial opinion, whether you want or don’t want tomatoes in your gumbo,” Nathan said, adding that Rouses CEO Donny Rouse – a no tomato in gumbo advocate – was actively involved in that issue.

A variety of chefs and cooks were interviewed, including chefs Eric Cook and Nathan Richard.

“We delved into the fact that you can put meat in a seafood gumbo, which was heresy for so long. But Chef Leah Chase was like, ‘that’s fine. You put what you want in your gumbo,’” Nathan said.

Also very popular have been the bourbon, Cajun and Italian-themed issues. Nathan said about 25 percent of Gulf Coast residents claim Italian heritage. 

Collaborative effort

Putting the magazine together is a passion project for the marketing team – Eliza Schulze, art director; Kacie Galtier, illustrator; Mary Ann Florey, graphic designer; and Harley Breaux, marketing coordinator. 

“We feel this great responsibility to our customers to get all of the history right and all of the culture right, to make sure that we are telling their story,” Nathan said.

Schulze’s first project was the Cajun issue. A Cajun herself, Schulze jumped right in and “really brought the typography. She just made it so much more,” Nathan said. 

For Schulze, working on the Cajun issue was special. The team used one of her mother’s old Arcadian books on the cover as a prop.

“Just introducing pieces of home in the magazine was really important, working with our photographer to get those beautiful images,” she said. 

Schulze said she enjoys the workflow, laying out the issue and working with Galtier and Florey on design elements.

Galtier said she appreciates the freedom to put her own style and spin on illustrations, such as the Cajun alphabet used in the Cajun issue. The illustration was used on Rouses reusable bags and on store décor.

Galtier’s illustrations have life outside of the magazine and often are used in emails, social media and the Rouses website.

“Kacie’s illustrations are the final glue for the magazine,” Schulze said.

Florey’s first issue was themed Women in Food, which was special to her as both her mother and grandmother work in the food industry.

“What I love about the magazine is that it is so local,” she said. “Everything has local ties. It really relates back to all the Rouses customers in this area. I think that’s what’s really special about it.”

Breaux, who handles advertising for Rouses magazine, said she most enjoys the creative process. 

“I think we have an amazing creative team. Everyone loves our magazine, and we’re just so happy to put it out for our customers and get that great response from them. It really makes it worth it for us,” she said.

Keeping it local

Many of the writers and photographers who contribute to the magazine have roots in the region. Nathan said the team primarily works with local photographer Romney Caruso but also licenses photos from other Gulf Coast photographers.

She noted that many of the writers also have local ties. “From the beginning, I would reach out to writers I admired or writers I saw who were from here but maybe not writing here. Our writers are some of the best in the country, writing for the grocery store magazine.” 

One of those is David Brown of New Orleans, who writes for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and Scientific American. When Brown first started writing for Rouses, Nathan said he would contact her to say he needed to be in the magazine because of his mother.

“His mother tells him she’s not going to read him in The New York Times, but he’d better be in the Rouses magazine,” Nathan said.

While Brown is the main writer, the magazine also features local food writers such as Liz Thorpe, an authority on cheese.

“We use a variety of writers, so we really try and support local journalism,” Nathan said.

Rouses Markets

Authors such as Rick Bragg and James Lee Burke have allowed the magazine to reprint some of their stories.

Looking to the future, Nathan said she sees Rouses magazine as “only getting more interesting. It has only become better as it has grown.”

She noted everyone at Rouses wants to participate. In the holiday issue, HR Director Lee Veillon used the rotisserie at the corporate office to cook Donny Rouse’s ham and his own turkey. The turkey made the cover. Acosta also was on hand making Brussels sprouts. Nathan said Acosta’s “Cookin’ on Hwy. 1” column is very popular with readers.

“Those issues where everyone comes together and participate are the most fun,” she said.

Rouses’ vendors support the magazine through advertising. While it is available only in stores, Nathan said the goal is to offer subscriptions. “We are constantly mailing them out for people,” she said.

While many grocery store publications focus on recipes, Rouses magazine dives into the culture of the region.

“It was important to us that, along with recipes, we also feature the people, places, restaurants, bars, music and everything else that make our region so unique. Those are the things that I love about living here,” Nathan said.

“Everybody’s from somewhere initially. We’re able to talk about that and how it all comes together … We will pick out these small pockets, like why tamales are important around Christmas in certain Latin American communities and why the St. Joseph altars are always a really big thing for us.”

She noted the Crawfish issue reveals the first people to boil crawfish were the Houma Indians. “We have a really great story about that.”

The magazine is supported by the Rouse family and the company. “It’s a pride thing for our company,” Nathan said. “Our magazine is different than any grocery store publication.”

CEO Donny Rouse, who writes a letter for each edition, agrees. “I don’t think there is any other supermarket that has a better magazine, and I don’t know if there are any food magazines that are better, anywhere.”

Read more independent store news from The Shelby Report.

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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