When Jack and Diane Phares and partner Linda Hebert sold Shucks! almost two weeks ago to the tune of $1.2 million, longtime customers and employees were skeptical. Front supervisor and 26-year employee RenÃ© Hunt was afraid everything about the restaurant would change. "Usually [with] new owners it's their way and they will do what they want to do," the veteran waitress says. While Shucks! is only 12 years old, the Phareses, along with much of their staff, have been in the oyster business for decades.
They got their start at Dupuy's Oyster Shop, where Jack Phares caught the fever for the restaurant business. His love for the seafood enterprise started in the 1960s working oyster beds with his father-in-law, who at the time owned Dupuy's.
Jack Phares' in-laws, Harold and Doris Hebert, taught him the ins and outs of the cooking world and also passed on their passion for the business to their daughters, Diane and Linda. When the Heberts retired in 1979, Phares and the two daughters bought Dupuy's and ran it for about 15 years. In 1994, after an acrimonious lease dispute with the Dupuy family property owners, they lost the lease.
The Phareses and Linda resolved to come back bigger and better with a new venture. Within a week of losing Dupuy's, Shucks! was being built just up the road. In less than a year, the new restaurant opened its doors. Loyal employees who had worked with the Phareses left Dupuy's and followed them to Shucks!
Jack Phares clearly remembers Oct. 2, 1995, the day Shucks opened its doors. He was 47 and had the stress of a large mortgage and a brand new business. His fears were unfounded; the Abbeville restaurant has been a regular stop for faithful customers and a second home for the kitchen and wait staff for more than a decade now. Longtime employees are as much a part of the draw as recipes created more than 30 years ago ' ones customers have come to expect and look forward to every time they dine. When news of the sale spread, anxious customers responded with near anger. "They better not change the food," was a phrase employee Hunt heard over and over.
Hunt felt a weight lift off her shoulders on the day new owners David Bertrand and Bert Istre introduced themselves to the crew. "They said to us," Hunt recalls, "'You are going to teach us. We're going to learn from you.'"
Bertrand and Istre both have experience in operating restaurants. Bertrand and his wife, Susie, opened The RiverFront restaurant, which sits along Bayou Vermilion in Abbeville and is less than a block away from Shucks! The Bertrands ran The RiverFront from 1989 to 1995, and after six years sold the business to spend time with their young children. Istre graduated from UL Lafayette's hotel and restaurant management school in 1993, spending his internship year getting hands-on experience under Bertrand at the RiverFront. He went on to manage Abbeville's Golden Corral, which he purchased in 1996. The two men have been friends since their days at The RiverFront.
On Friday, Aug. 11, the sale of Shucks! to Bertrand and Istre was finalized, and the new owners took over the following day. "My number one concern is not to come in and try to reinvent the wheel," Bertrand says. "If I try to change that gumbo, I think there would be a mutiny." He immediately noticed the teamwork of the staff and realized he had bought into a unique situation. "Everybody is just like a well-oiled machine," he says.
"[They] promised to take care of the staff and that was important to me," says Linda.
After 34 years in the restaurant business ' practically a round-the-clock commitment ' Phares characterizes the sale as a business decision and says he will help his son Chad and wife Maria at their Lafayette oyster restaurant, Phares'. "If he's shorthanded," Jack says, "I'll pitch in and help."
Mike Harson's coffers show the advantage of incumbency.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote on an ordinance for final adoption Tuesday that, if approved, would give the city the green light to take over a stretch of Verot School Road from the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The Louisiana Association of Educators filed a lawsuit challenging the $60 million in spending through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
He's been out of office for nearly a decade, but former U.S. Sen. John Breaux is back on the campaign trail, urging voters to support his one-time colleague, Democrat Mary Landrieu.
The unresolved fate of the ashes left behind after Ebola waste was destroyed in Texas highlights the problem U.S. hospitals and communities could face in disposing of their own waste.
While much of the talk was about whether New Orleans could win a big game — or any game, for that matter — on the road, the conversation in the Saints' locker room was about something completely different.
State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
Compared to the rest of the country, Lafayette has it pretty good when it comes to the cost and speed of our Internet.
Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.