Small business storytellers set up shop downtown for Festival
New Jersey brothers Walter and Patrick Hessert arrived in Lafayette this week expecting to find a sleepy, one-gator town. But what the brothers promptly discovered here is a small city with big ideas — and an entrepreneur spirit that’s highlighted by the countless small businesses and family-owned favorites that define the Hub City.
“There are places in the country known for their small business hot beds, like Boulder [Colo.], San Francisco and Austin,” Walter Hessert says. “Then there are places like this, where you’re surprised and swept off your feet by the energy. The small businesses here are vibrant, and the entrepreneurs here have epic stories.”
The Hessert brothers have been traveling the country for more than nine months to hear the stories of small business owners, all the while living out of an Airstream that’s the center of their own multi-media venture, The Million Dollar Road Trip:
Small businesses from all over the country buy space on the outside of our trailer and we promote them on the road and on the web. The ad sales fund our operations, promotions and grants. We provide valuable marketing for all the businesses while covering the trailer with thousands of logos from across America. We will create a monument to small business and entrepreneurship, and our goal is to put our Airstream in the Smithsonian Museum.
One of their first small-business visits here was a trip to Old Tyme Grocery, where the two were able to indulge on some quintessential Lafayette cuisine and hear the story of Old Tyme Grocery owner Glenn Murphree.
Murphree’s sandwich empire and decades of service in Lafayette inspired the brothers enough to include the Old Tyme story on their blog, as did Recycled Cycles owner Will Atkinson Jr. The two businesses are a perfect example, the brothers say, of the balance of long-standing businesses and new start-ups on the rise.
And the brothers apparently weren’t the only ones inspired by their visit with the Murphrees. The day after they met, Murphree found the brothers at the Airstream Village set up downtown for Festival and had with him a list of more than a dozen small businesses in the area with a story worth profiling.
“There’s a nice marriage between established institutions and emerging businesses,” Patrick says. “There’s a lot of support for each other.”
Just in time for Festival, the brothers are anchored downtown until they depart Sunday for their next destination. The goal of the year-long trip is to sell $1 million worth of ads to wrap their bright blue Airstream, meanwhile sharing “epic stories” of small businesses that have shaped the towns in which they were established.
If you happen across the Airstream (it’s pretty hard to miss), take a minute between Festival stages and sangria to see what Patrick and Walter are about. If their energy is even remotely close to what it was when we met briefly a few days ago, you’ll be glad you did.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.