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."
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.