It made a big splash in Baton Rouge! Just as everyone was emerging from a year-long pandemic, the Blue Zoo Aquarium opened in the Mall of Louisiana, of all places. This isn’t just any aquarium – it’s an attraction that has a fascinating back story.
Nami Haws is the public face of Blue Zoo Aquarium, a growing chain of aquariums around the country that opened its third location in March 2021, here in Baton Rouge. It’s in a 16,000 square foot space in between the men’s and women’s Dillard’s in the mall.
The aquarium has an array of sea life with more than 30 unique attractions. Blue Zoo was founded by Nami’s father, Wes Haws, who opened the first Blue Zoo in Washington in 2019, after a harrowing and inspiring experience. He suffered a traumatizing head injury while running a project to build homes in Ethiopia. After undergoing multiple brain surgeries and being left partially blind, he put a fish tank in his bedroom to help him through his recovery, and says learning about and interacting with the amazing creatures of the sea helped him get better and regain his strength and eyesight. Since then, Blue Zoo has opened a second location in Oklahoma City and now, Baton Rouge.
While really unique and innovative national companies like Blue Zoo Aquarium have a marketing team to help them get their message out, a lot of small, specialty retailers have a harder time telling their story, whether because they lack the time, money or marketing expertise. That’s where the Scout Guide comes in.
The Scout Guide is a print publication and website that promotes the artists, artisans and small, unique businesses in each market using beautifully formatted images.
The Scout Guide was founded 10 years ago as a website and city guide dedicated to Charlottesville, Virginia. Since then, it has expanded to 60 markets, each of which has its own editor/owner, who serves as a storyteller, curator and small business advocate. Kaleigh Porcelli is that person in Baton Rouge. A native of New Orleans, she has a background in marketing and experience in publishing.
This show was recorded over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard. Photos by Erik Otts . And there’s more lunchtime conversation about local family business here.