Generations learn from the past to move toward the future in family-owned Lafayette restaurants.
By Kari Walker
Friday, Aug. 2, 2013
|Photos by Robin May|
|Brett, Craig and Michael Dwyer|
History is all around Lafayette — sometimes the best lessons are over a plate of rice and gravy. You take a bite, enjoy the flavor, but what is it about the taste you like? It may be a memory of mama’s way, but to the hands that prepared the dish, it’s a memory rich in family tradition that leads down a career path of success. Local, family-owned and operated restaurants are the backbone of this town — it takes courage and audacity to leap into manning the family business, but for some the dreams of becoming a doctor or lawyer never were as vivid as that of holding their own in the restaurant world.
In 1965, Stanley Dwyer purchased Pop Stinson’s and changed the name to Dwyer’s Café; then, in 1975, Stanley’s son Michael bought the restaurant from his father and continued the popular plate lunch menu items.
Michael worked side by side with his family, just as he did with his dad. Sons Craig and Brett became the third generation of Dwyers to man the helm in January 2013 when they became co-owners. The brothers still work alongside their father with pride of what the family’s name has built. “Ever since I could talk I used to tell my dad I wanted to be just like him,” recalls Brett about when he knew he wanted to follow into the family business. For Craig, he always knew he wanted to work for himself and had ideas of different industries, but was drawn back to the family restaurant. “It’s so much easier when you have an existing [business] and you know what your sales are going to be tomorrow versus starting from scratch,” Craig explains on the decision to take over Dwyer’s.
The long-standing success is not accidental — both second and third generations agree it’s your product and price giving you an edge in the marketplace. “It just comes down to the food I think — food and prices. People want to get what they paid for,” says Craig. On a daily basis, customers come through the lunch line recalling when Stanley was the cheerful face greeting them. “I still have older customers who talk about my grandfather serving them plate lunches and then when my dad was serving the lunches and that they are now glad to see us [brothers] serving,” Brett says. No doubt the siblings learned lessons on respect and customer service over the years from their successful patriarchs.
As for the future, the fourth generation Dwyers have already been spotted clearing dishes in the dining room this summer. “Somebody in the family will take over,” Craig notes. Maybe it will be one of Brett’s sons; his 4-year-old already says he wants to cook.
Bloomberg Businessweek released a study in 2007 reporting that around one in four restaurants either closes (or changes ownership) within the first year of business. Even though some restaurants close their doors just as fast as they opened, some foodies take the risk knowing they have something to offer the community — thanks to inspiration from a lineage of restaurateur relatives.
Alex Andrade and John Bienvenu, co-owners of Rusted Rooster on St. Landry Street, began serving breakfast and lunch in October 2012 and
|John Bienvenu and Alex Andrade|
remain optimistic with the success of their venture approaching its anniversary. The brothers-in-law developed a menu and dining room with memories of Andrade’s late grandparents, Galine and “Bootsie” Landry, known for operating a series of successful restaurants during the 1950s until the mid ’80s, including The Skunk, Puddy Tat and Galine’s. The latter was the last of the Landry grandparents’ establishments, made famous by Bootsie’s homemade biscuits.
Much of the Rusted Rooster menu items revolve around a foundation of Bootsie’s biscuits with breakfast sandwich creations by Andrade and Bienvenu. “I’ve always been in the kitchen. We would go to my grandparents’ house for the holidays ... and I loved working in the kitchen with them,” recalls Andrade. “I would not have gotten in this business if it were not for my mom and grandparents. I don’t know what I’d be doing,” he adds.
As for Bienvenu, he never felt the 9-to-5 desk job was his calling — he was eager to get cooking and use his business background to balance the partnership. “A month before we opened I said, ‘I’ve got to get working in a kitchen,’ so I went to work in his [Andrade] mom’s restaurant [Landry’s Café] for a couple of weeks and I learned some that way,” says Bienvenu.
Patrons who frequent the Rusted Rooster vary along the lifespan and the laid-back establishment they have created, filling a niche in locally owned breakfast options. Sometimes a customer will start a conversation: “I remember your grandparents...” and Andrade knows the deceased Galine and Bootsie are being honored through dishes coming from the kitchen.
There’s a picture in the kitchen of Bootsie, and on a busy day Andrade and Bienvenu find themselves looking over their shoulders to her for an encouraging smile that they are doing something right. Rusted Rooster may be new to the scene, but the support from the public affirms the decision was wise. “I see a lot of younger business owners who are doing what they want to do and the community supports them,” Bienvenu notes. “It’s exciting to be part of that movement.”
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
“I am only getting a little nervous about two projects — the proposed Sasol GTL facility [not the new ethylene plant] and the proposed G2X facility — both in Lake Charles. They need a hefty difference between oil and natural gas prices to make sense.”
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Lower oil prices also might slow the growth of oil production in parts of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because it will no longer be so profitable.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Saints Street cottage or River Ranch condo
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Facing opposition from a powerful industry, the governor and many in the Legislature, a New Orleans-area flood board's lawsuit against dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies seemed doomed early on.
"I want to take an opportunity to thank the people of Lafayette for allowing me to serve you for the last three years as your school superintendent."
After Thanksgiving, the small town of Moreauville plans to confiscate and kill all rottweilers and pitbulls, including a service dog.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.