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 circumstances surrounding the death last March while in the backseat of a sheriff’s cruiser of Victor White III, long a source of dispute by White’s family, have earned an investigation by federal officials.
With six of the LPSB’s nine members poised for Pat Cooper’s termination, a request was filed Tuesday for a fast-tracked hearing on the federal lawsuit calling for the disqualification of two board members from voting on the matter due to bias.
Louisiana's Republican Party has filed a complaint against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu with the Senate's ethics committee about her use of private chartered planes.
An attorney signs up to run against LPSB's Mark Cockerham, and within a week a lawsuit is filed by a former LPSS employee in an attempt to disqualify him. Coincidence?
The Ragin’ Cajuns got off to a superb start Saturday night, and the Human Jukebox made the soaked season opener even sweeter for the third-largest crowd in Cajun Field history.
The Louisiana health department will follow a federal judge's order and refrain from immediately penalizing doctors who are trying to comply with a new abortion law that requires them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a spokeswoman said Monday.
While bogged down with qualifying candidates last month, Secretary of State Tom Schedler didn’t lose sight of the true endgame coming in November and December.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stoned driving a concern when pot is legal; Detroit's bankruptcy trial; speed trap scandal in Florida and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 02, 2014.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."