After riding his skateboard the block from his home to his business, the Spanish Town Market, Taylor Blanche, 26, was met by East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies about 6:15 a.m. Feb. 12.
Members of the Sheriff’s Office’s Narcotics Division were there to search the market and then his home for possible illegal drugs after a confidential informant said he purchased marijuana from Blanche at his home. Blanche denies that purchase ever happened.
Nothing illegal was found at the store, but a search of Blanche’s home came up with three plastic bags containing 6 ounces of marijuana, 10 doses of LSD and $4,480 in cash, an arrest warrant says.
Blanche told investigators that a portion of the money was owed to him by his brother, but the warrant filed in 19th Judicial District Court says the money should be forfeited because it was the proceeds of illegal drug sales.
Blanche was arrested on possession of drug paraphernalia, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute LSD, and possession of a firearm with a controlled dangerous substance. Blanche co-owns the Spanish Town Market with his wife, Jenna Blanche, and his brother, Mackenzie Blanche. They bought the store in February 2013 and restyled it into a corner market, gathering place and busy lunch and dinner stop for downtown residents and workers.
Taylor Blanche said the marijuana was his, and that he uses it to ease pressure caused by tumors in his jaw, neck and side. However, he adamantly denies the claim he was selling marijuana. He described what he had at his home as “shake,” or loose leaves of marijuana.
As someone who paid $100,000 in taxes last year, Blanche said it’s silly to think he was making big bucks selling some loose-leaf marijuana and a few tabs of acid. The officers, he said, kept trying to get him to turn over who his “customers” were, but Blanche said he just didn’t have any to give them because he doesn’t sell drugs, contrary to what a confidential informant told them.
“Absolutely not. No. That’s what’s so annoying,” Blanche said. “Based on a criminal’s word, they’re going to come after me?”
The LSD, or acid, found in the freezer at the house had been there so long he’d forgotten it was there, he said, calling it a memento of a long-ago party he attended.
“It was stupid to keep it. I know that,” he said.
The arrest warrant also says the officers found a .270-caliber Browning rifle in the house, but Blanche said he didn’t have any bullets for the gun, it was unloaded and he doesn’t even remember the last time it was fired.
Even though Blanche said he has kept his personal life and his business life separate, the allegations against him do have him concerned about potential impacts to the business.
“They came and took away my lottery this morning,” Blanche said Tuesday. “I thought I was innocent until proven guilty.”
At the same time, he said as he continued to make burgers, sandwiches and fries at Spanish Town Market, people kept coming into the store to tell him that they’re there to support him.
“I just want to work and do what I do,” he said as he wrapped up another order.
Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, said he couldn’t comment on the case, but that the store itself has been a mainstay in the community for years. Last year, the store celebrated its 100th anniversary.
“The store has been there for a long time,” Rhorer said. “If something changes with that, it would be a concern.”
Many years ago, when there was a public pay phone in front of the store, there were problems with people congregating in front of the store that concerned neighbors, Rhorer said. However, that phone booth was removed years ago as the age of the cellphone took over, and he said the problems stopped.
Although it’s been suggested that some in the Spanish Town community are opposed to the store’s existence, Rhorer said he hasn’t seen that.
“Recently, no. If anything, it’s just the opposite,” Rhorer said. “It’s been a very positive thing for the neighborhood.”