In our market-driven economy, we have an innate belief that price and value are connected. The more valuable something is, the more it costs.But strangely, it doesn’t always work that way. Take sodium for example. Sodium is vital to our very survival as human beings. It’s essential for nerve and muscle function, and it plays a role in the body’s control of blood pressure.

Most of our sodium comes from eating sodium chloride, better known as salt. We add salt to practically every food item we make. And – maybe because the human body is designed this way to keep us alive – when salt is missing from food, we think it doesn’t taste right. And yet, despite the fact that it’s one of the most valuable substances in our lives, next time you’re at the supermarket take a look at the price of salt. It’s extraordinarily cheap.


Salt is a spice. Like salt, other spices are relatively cheap too. Because spices sell in small quantities and have low profit margins, it’s difficult for a small spice company to survive.

Bookshop owner, restaurateur, and spice merchant Barkley Rafferty

Triple threat bookshop owner, restaurateur, and spice merchant Barkley Rafferty

Barkley Rafferty is co-founder of Royal Merchant Trading, a New Orleans spice company whose plan for survival is a brick-and-mortar storefront. A spice store. In the Garden District, in a shopping center called The Rink.


Although the Murray family’s New Orleans’ roots go back to the 1700’s, in those 300 years, nobody in the Murray family made wine. In fact, very few people in New Orleans have ever made wine. After all, grapes don’t grow here.

In 2010 the Murray family bought a vineyard in Sonoma, California. The plan was to use the house on the property as a vacation home, and lease the grapevines to people who know something about making wine. That plan didn’t exactly work out.300 years of inexperience was quickly dispensed with and today the Murray family make 6 wines. Three cabernets, a Zinfandel, a Chardonnay and a rose – under the distinctly New Orleans label, Flambeaux Winery.

Flambeaux Winery’s wines are sold across the country in every state. And they’ve been recognized in all sorts of important places, including a Best Wine award from the prestigious Food & Wine magazine.

Lawyer and Wine Ambassador Stephen Murray Jr.

Double Threat lawyer and self-described “Wine Ambassador” Stephen Murray Jr.

New Orleanian and lawyer Stephen Murray Jr. still doesn’t refer to himself as a wine-maker, preferring the title “Wine Ambassador.” Stephen claims that while most of his family is on the production side of the business, he’s on the consumption side.

Stephen Murray Jr, Peter Ricchiuti, Barkley Rafferty Out to Lunch at NOLA Pizza

Stephen Murray Jr, Peter Ricchiuti, Barkley Rafferty Out to Lunch at NOLA Pizza

When you start a business there’s no guarantee it’s going to work. The one thing you can guarantee, however, is you’re going to work. You work long hours, often including nights, weekends, and holidays. And you invariably find yourself having to come up with solutions to a myriad of problems you never knew existed. That’s why the single most common piece of guidance to people starting a new business is, “Find something to do you really love.” Barkley Rafferty and Stephen Murray are examples of the benefits of taking that simple business advice. And although happiness isn’t a line item on a balance sheet, it’s definitely a contributing factor to over-all success.

Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. Photos by Jill Lafleur.

And while you’re making dinner with spices from Royal Trading and sipping on your Flambeaux wine, check out this podcast about the future of charging your cell phone and your EV.