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."
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.