Coastal Supporter Spotlight: Kassy McCall, NOLA Til Ya Die
Guests gather at NOLA Til Ya Die for crawfish, trivia, and coastal restoration.
In 2014, Kassy McCall opened NOLA Til Ya Die in a Mid-City warehouse where Toulouse Street meets Bayou St. John. “I had been down in the French Market selling ‘Til Ya Die’ merchandise since 2012,” she explains, “mostly as test marketing.” McCall’s “Til Ya Die” designs are recognizable to many New Orleanians, but have a deeper connection to the city’s Hurricane Katrina recovery than most realize. After Katrina, “everyone kept asking me why I kept going back to New Orleans. They said ‘there’s nothing there, no one will be able to work down there, the city is done.’” She wanted to create something that would celebrate the city and counter those negative messages that dominated conversations with friends and the nightly news in the years after the storm.
She was looking for something proud, edgy and decidedly New Orleans – something that honored the spirit of the people who continued to live in the city, when everyone else had counted them out.
Kassy McCall, on the far right, with Restore the Mississippi River Delta staff at Bugs & Beer on the Bayou
The unifying theme of McCall’s designs is a skull with a crooked-jawed smile and hurricane eyes. On most of her products, the words “NOLA Til Ya Die” sit below the skull in a rustic, unrefined font. The logo is meant to be disarming, but the message is defiant: life in New Orleans is proud, scrappy and persistent.
As a resident and business owner, McCall recognizes that the environmental problems Katrina brought to light are increasingly pressing issues. “Sometimes it’s just easier to ignore it,” she says of the state’s land loss crisis. Without healthy wetlands and a working coast, New Orleans is environmentally and economically vulnerable. While interest in coastal restoration rose after the storm, the issue isn’t a daily topic of conversation for many locals. Coastal land loss isn’t visible for the average New Orleans resident, McCall observes, but “what’s happening fifty, a hundred miles away has a huge impact on what’s happening here. And it’s happening fast.” She feels the need to get involved in coastal restoration because a dissolved coastline leaves her vulnerable as a business owner and as a resident of the Crescent City.
On May 12th, 2016, Restore the Mississippi River Delta and NOLA Til Ya Die hosted a crawfish boil to raise awareness to coastal land loss and the impending update to the State’s Coastal Master Plan. The event focused on New Orleans, and local Mid-City businesses pitched in to help the cause. Second Line Brewing provided beer, Evangeline Lounges donated a case of wine, and McCall donated space in her store. Attendees ate Crawfish Meister’s crawfish while Thinkin’ With Lincoln, a local trivia host, quizzed them on their Louisiana coastal knowledge. For McCall, this was an important opportunity to get involved in restoration. “You can’t live in a coastal city and pretend sea level rise and coastal land loss don’t exist,” said McCall.
The fight for restoration will define the future of New Orleans and south Louisiana, and McCall has rooted her business and her life in the city. She doesn’t plan to leave any time soon.
Restore the Mississippi River Delta Staff and guests enjoy crawfish and coastal trivia.