business / agriculture a look at some of the ways the teche area economy works a special section of
Celebrating Our Community
The Daily Iberian / Thursday, February 11, 2010
Rising to a meaty challenge in area It was all about timing, Shawn Sigur said about the moment he made a decision to open Shawn’s Cajun Meats Too in his hometown of Delcambre. His action gave the town its first grocery store since Hurricane Rita’s devastating punch in 2005. The mayor calls the store a lifesaver for the city.
‘When I started leasing the business, I said, ‘Don’t change anything. Keep the same recipes.’ And we’ve had the same recipes ever since.’
Michael Romero Former Plzza Place restaurateur who took over the business from his father, Johnny Romero O
Proven recipe Pizza Place serving for 40-plus years BY HEATHER MILLER THE DAILY IBERIAN
rom the Nina Special to the Masterpiece Pizza to the heaping servings of spaghetti and meatballs, Pizza Place on Center Street has been serving up one-of-a-kind recipes to generations of residents for almost 40 years. The restaurant’s history began in the early 1970s, when New Iberia businessman Johnny Romero opened the Pizza Place, then soon turned it over to his son Michael Romero. Michael Romero said at the time, Pizza Hut was likely the only pizza establishment in New Iberia, which prompted the family to open a pizza restaurant. When he took over, Michael Romero started experimenting with various crust and sauce recipes. Once he found the perfect mixtures, he made sure the recipes would never change. “When I started leasing the business, I said, ‘Don’t change anything.
Keep the same recipes.’ And we’ve had the same recipes ever since,” Michael Romero said. “When you have families come in and you serve a good product and give them their money’s worth, you’ll keep them coming back.” Geri Frederick said she remembers
AT A G L A N C E O O JOHNNY ROMERO opened the pizza restaurant in the early 1970s. O HE TURNED IT over soon afterward to his son Michael Romero. O CARL AND NATALIE Rodriguez took over the business in 1989.
when Pizza Hut started its delivery service in New Iberia, it was the first pizza restaurant to offer delivery. Though Johnny Romero knew he would not be the first to deliver, he took delivery a step further and bought two trucks and built ovens in the back of the trucks by running hot water through the radiator. “The pizzas and food were all really warm and fresh when they got to the house,” Frederick said. Michael Romero turned over the restaurant operations to Carl and Nathalie Rodriguez in 1989. The couple now lease the building from Michael Romero. “I was a salesman for a food service SEE RECIPE, PAGE 3
Crawfish and rice — a great combination Marin Durand began raising crawfish and growing rice in the 1960s. Now he and his family process tail meet from the crawfish farm at Teche Valley Seafood Inc., also the home of chef’s favorite Crawfish Puree. The company’s trademark dish can be found in 50 grocery stores around Louisiana.
FREEZ-O’s been cooking for 54 years From busing the tables as a youngster, Toni Mora has become a driving force behind the local family restaurant that is known for its mouth-watering hot dogs and humburgers.
page 5 ‘We hear every day that it’s the best pizza in the world.’ Carl Rodriguez Pizza Place restaurateur O
page 2 / Thursday, February 11, 2010 / The Daily Iberian Profile 2010 / Celebrating Our Community
INDEX O Pizza pies since the ’70s Johnny Romero started Pizza Place, which now is managed by a local couple using the same recipe for the pies. . . . . . .page 1
Throwback eatery Freddie DeCourt’s new Freddie’s Not-So-Famous BBQ has the look and taste of another era and ‘nice environment.’ . . . . . .page 2
Pawn shop options Bayou State Pawn and Jewelry manager Dave Perez said most people are looking for bargains when they shop there. . . .page 4
Family restaurant Toni Mora started busing tables at her family’s FREEZ-O eating establishment at age 11. Now she is a driving force. . . . .page 5
Religious outlet Rosary House, a true family business started in 1946 by Robert Minvielle, offers a cathedral-like scene. . . . .page 6
Mudbugs and rice Teche Valley Seafood Inc. is known for its processed and cooked crawfish tail meat, especially Crawfish Puree. . . . . . . . .page 7
Cajun Original Foods His love of cooking prompted Dennis Higginbotham to purchase a boudin making facility and pistolette company. . . . . .page 8
Profile 2010: Celebrating Our Community is a supplemental publication of , P.O. Box 9290, New Iberia, LA 70562.
Publisher . . . . . . . . . . . .Will Chapman Managing Editor . . . . . . . .Jeff Zeringue Advertising Manager . . . . . . .Alan Rini Production Manager . . . .Jerry Sexton Business Manager . . . .Amanda Seneca Circulation Manager . . . . .“J.P.” Poirier
Sweet BBQ smell in new place BY JUSTIN HALL THE DAILY IBERIAN
here’s the sweet smell of barbecue sauce, the sight of smoke rising from the meat pit, and the sounds of sizzling meat being carved up in the kitchen. Add in the London-style double-decker bus, the oldschool beer and soda advertisements and the sounds of jazz in the speakers and you have the complete picture at one of New Iberia’s newest restaurants, Freddie’s Not-So-Famous BBQ, on West Main Street. Located behind the Bayou Teche Trading Co., the barbecue restaurant is a throwback to a JUSTIN HALL / THE DAILY IBERIAN simpler time when people came out to the neighbor- Waiter Hampton Covington steps outside with an order of barbecued food at Freddie’s Not-So-Famous BBQ. hood to join in a community meal. ent types of customers Freddie DeCourt, New since the place opened Iberia Mayor Pro-Tem and two weeks ago, from the a general contractor with people who come everyIberia Building Services, day to those that are just owns the building along discovering the location. with other property in the “This is my first time city. He said originally he here and the food is very wanted to create a line of good,” Kevin Broussard, barbecue sauces before he of New Iberia said. decided to go after opening Broussard, who works the entire restaurant. at the Evangeline Life “I had owned the buildbuilding next door, said ing next door and just figthat he got the barbeque ured that running a chicken, pork and beans. restaurant would be kind “They got it to me fairof fun,” DeCourt said. ly quickly, which is good After finishing the pit in on a lunch hour,” JUSTIN HALL / THE DAILY IBERIAN Broussard said. “It’s defiJune 2009, DeCourt hired a local chef, Brandon LaBry Diners eat barbecue at Freddie’s Not-So-Famous BBQ, which has a throwback look. nitely a nice environment of Abbeville to be his cook to sit and have a lunch and his nephew, Hampton Inside, DeCourt has possible future use as a DeCourt said he has outside.” Covington of New Iberia, lined the walls with old bandstand and of course, always been fascinated Overall, DeCourt said to be his waiter, completstyle advertisements such the London bus. with cars growing up, that part of the fun is the ing the team of three. as ones for Pepsi-Cola and “I was originally thinksaying that he has owned adventure. He said that “I told myself that I Budweiser, as well as old ing of a trolley that could at least one old truck at he won’t quit being part would never work in a campaign posters from be used for tours through- different points throughof city politics or the conrestaurant again after both city and state poliout the city but then I saw out his life. He said that struction business, but being a waiter for the past tics from the 1930’s and that the bus was super the decorations definitely having the restaurant is a three years,” Covington 1940’s. Patrons sit in cheap,” DeCourt said. “It’s hark back to a time when nice thing to have. said. “But when Freddie bench seating from old about a foot taller than he was growing up. “It came down to either asked, how could I say no?” double-decker bus seats. they said, so you can’t Of course, besides the having to shut up or do it Part of the charm is not Outside, in the main drive it on Main Street or charm of the place, there myself,” DeCourt said. “It’s only the great food but the patio, there is an old wash- it will hit all the oak tree is the food. DeCourt said definitely a weekend labor wonderful atmosphere tub filled with soda cans, branches.” he has had many differof love sort of thing.” that DeCourt and his team an old airliner bus that have created. has been hollowed out for
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The Daily Iberian / Thursday, February 11, 2010 / page 3
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LEE BALL / THE DAILY IBERIAN
Lynette Landry, left, and Aaron LeBlanc work in the kitchen recently at Pizza Place.
RECIPE: Take-out, dine in, delivery FROM PAGE 1
company, and I wanted to get off the road,” said Carl Rodriguez. “(Romero) was getting burnt out, and here we are today. We just made 20 years here.” Rodriguez said 30 to 40 percent of the business is delivery, but with a $6 lunch special and an atmosphere that caters to clientele of all kinds, the take-out and dine-in business is strong. “It’s just the atmosphere,” he said. “We cater to families with small children, keep a couple of games here, and don’t compete with franchises. We do no advertising, just word of mouth. We just put a lot more stuff on our pizza
‘We cater to families with small children, keep a couple of games here, and don’t compete with franchises.’ Carl Rodriguez Pizza Place restaurateur O
The restaurant’s history began in the early 1970s, when Johnny Romero opened Pizza Place then soon turned it over to his son Michael Romero. O than other places and keep people coming back.” Aside from the unique pizza served there, Rodriguez said salads, sandwiches and especially the large serving of spaghetti and meatballs also are popular dishes. “We hear every day that it’s the best pizza in the world,” Rodriguez said. “The customers tell us. We don’t even have to say it.” Although quality food and atmosphere have been key to making Pizza Place an institution in New Iberia, Rodriguez said his staff also has been instrumental in keeping the restaurant alive. “We have a great crew,” he said. “Most of them have been with us for a long time. That helps us stay in business. They work hard for us, and that’s not an easy thing to find these days.”
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page 4 / Thursday, February 11, 2010 / The Daily Iberian Profile 2010 / Celebrating Our Community
JESSICA GOFF / THE DAILY IBERIAN
Bayou State Pawn and Jewelry assistant manager Ryan Russo talks to people looking at items recently inside the shop on South Lewis Street.
Looking for bargains at pawn shop BY JESSICA GOFF THE DAILY IBERIAN
any local businesses have been impacted by the economy one way or another, but one industry has seen just a little bit of everything, the pawn business. Dave Perez, Bayou State Pawn and Jewelry manager on South Lewis Street, said many pawn shoppers lately are simply looking for a bargain. “People are much more cost-conscious these days, we’ve got to make sure we keep up with larger competitors,” Perez said. For example, Perez said, there has been a noticeable increase in the rate of pawns, particularly in gold jewelry. On the retail side electronics are mostly sought by customers. “It’s a good and bad trend, we pawn more but then have to sell more and have to do a lot of price negotiating,” he said.
‘Some people hit up shops everywhere they go, it’s like going into gift shops or looking for souvenirs.’ Dave Perez Bayou State Pawn and Jewelry manager O He said he sees customers who peruse local pawn shops as part of a sight seeing venture while they travel. “Some people hit up shops everywhere they go, it’s like going into gift shops or looking for souvenirs,” he said. Perez said he had not seen any blatant changes in his business during the recession but can recall a few instances where he’s seen individuals in a bind. “We’ve seen a couple of those people come in where you just knew they had
never been inside a pawn shop before and probably wouldn’t be there for any other reason,” he said. Pawn Smart Inc. in Lafayette hasn’t seen much change in business, according to manager Job Valentin. He has been working in the pawn industry for more than 20 years. Recessions and gas crunches always seem to bring questions about the business, he said. “A lot of people don’t understand the industry. Sales fluctuate a little, for the
most part stay the same,” Valentin said. He said the pawn business is often portrayed in a negative light, preying on the desperation of others. And he said there is often a misconception of pawn merchandise being stolen or “hot.” Pawn shops are regulated and all new inventory must be reported to the local sheriff ’s office daily, an Iberia Parish Sheriff ’s Office spokesman said. Iberia Parish Sheriff ’s Office spokesman Lt. Ryan Turner said shops must provide reports of pawned merchandise, including identification of customers. He said local shops are efficient in notifying IPSO of suspicious activity. As for lending, Valentin said the distribution of loans has been minimal. “The average person coming in for a loan is just trying to get to next payday,” he said. The median loan amount, he said, is $60 to $75.
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Profile 2010 / Celebrating Our Community
The Daily Iberian / Thursday, February 11, 2010 / page 5
Hamburgers, hot dogs served locally for more than 50 years BY STEPHEN HEMELT THE DAILY IBERIAN
‘It became my love. I was begging to take orders because I wanted more. I always wanted more. I wear my heart on my shoulder, above the business, just like my dad.’
hen Toni Mora was 11, she used to beg her dad to let her work in the family restaurant. Unfortunately for the precocious youngster, the only thing she was allowed do at FREEZO was bus the tables. Fast forward a few years and Mora is not only fully immersed in the family restaurant, she is the driving force behind its success within New Iberia, which now stands at 54 years. Mora said her father, Raymond Marks, moved to New Iberia in 1956 and teamed with another man to establish the original FREEZ-O, a drive-in only location where a washateria now stands on Center Street behind McDonald’s. The burgers and hotdogs quickly became a local sensation, spawning three locations, before Marks struck out on is own to create FREEZ-O at its current location at the corner of Center and Carstens streets. “When he decided to build his own, he wanted to do it just him from the ground up in 1977,” Mora said. It was at the location at which Mora started busing tables and learning the family business. “It became my love,” she said. “I was begging to take orders because I wanted more. I always wanted more. I wear my heart on my shoulder, above the business, just like my dad.” FREEZ-O started at its current location as a dine-
Toni Mora Family has owned FREEZ-O for more than 50 years O in only establishment before adding its drivethrough feature in the early 1980s. The outdoor seating was added later because Mora said her father wanted to create an environment for patrons to hang out. “We wanted to put seats outside so more people could enjoy the atmosphere,” she said. “We’ve always been a warm, family place to hang out after school.” The family atmosphere has been a trademark that has spread from family ownership to longtime employees. Leslie Delcambre said he started working at FREEZO almost 20 years ago and stayed because of how close he became with Marks, who retired in the late 1990s and died in 2006. “I’ve been cooking the whole time I have been here,” Delcambre said. “The employees get to know their customers. Once they know their
name, they call them by name. They have an idea of what they are going to order.” Delcambre and Mora agree the hamburgers are a big hit because they come fresh to order and have homemade flavor. Mora said the hot dog is a restaurant staple, as well. “We’re known for the FREEZ-O hot dog,” she said. “It’s a given. You don’t say, ‘I’m going to get a hot dog at FREEZ-O.’ You say ‘I’m going to get a FREEZ-O hot dog.’ ” When Mora looks back on a restaurant she helps run, one her mother, Betty, still owns, it is with a sense of pride and accomplishment. “It is very surreal sometimes,” she said. “I always worked there as a worker, and now I’m on this side of the fence and I catch myself saying ‘wow.’ (My dad) made FREEZ-O his life so we could have a good life.”
LEE BALL / THE DAILY IBERIAN
Restaurant veteran cook Leslie Delcambre prepares an order in FREEZ-O.
LEE BALL / THE DAILY IBERIAN
Albert Thibodeaux, left, and Kaysha Leger enjoy lunch at FREEZ-O Restaurant.
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page 6 / Thursday, February 11, 2010 / The Daily Iberian Profile 2010 / Celebrating Our Community
Rosary House began when patriarch saw supply need BY JUSTIN HALL THE DAILY IBERIAN
he exquisite rosaries, the beautifully shaped candles, the hand-carved cross with Bibles underneath. It’s a scene that could remind people of the inside of a cathedral. Yet, all of this and more can be found inside the Minvielle family’s Rosary House located on Ann Street in New Iberia. Started by Robert Minvielle in 1946, the quaint little shop is a true family business catering to the religious faithful of not only Iberia Parish but the entire country, shipping goods from coast to coast. “He (Robert Minvielle) saw a need in the area,” Jim Minvielle, Robert’s son, said. “Churches had a difficult time getting supplies for their own needs. After coming back from World War II as an army veteran, he started up the business.” Minvielle, 62, and his five siblings, Thomas, Andrew, Johnny, William and Susan, are the second generation of family coowners of the business, following the death of their father in September 2008. As a family-run business, the emphasis is on creating a work environment that makes each worker feel like they are truly part of the community. “I have worked here for the past 16 years,” Betty Martin, of New Iberia, said. “I am a religious convert, and (this store) has really helped me to learn my faith. I really love the people and the friendJUSTIN HALL / THE DAILY IBERIAN ships.” Robert Minvielle started Rosary House, above, in 1946 on The store, which is Ann Street in New Iberia. The business has expanded to busiest around the holiemploy a second generation and ship items all over the days of Easter and country, as far away as California and Hawaii, due to their Christmas, sells a wide online store and mailing catalog. range of religious items,
JUSTIN HALL / THE DAILY IBERIAN
Renea Zeno of New Iberia looks over some of the items offered at Rosary House.
‘He (his father, Robert Minvielle) saw a need in the area. Churches had a difficult time getting supplies for their own needs. After coming back from World War II as an army veteran, he started up the business.’ Jim Minvielle Rosary House co-owner O such as Bibles, crucifixes, candles and of course, rosaries. The Minvielles make all of their own candles by hand in a factory across the street, as well as crafting their own rosaries from beads and metal findings imported from Italy, Austria and Germany.
“A lot of our findings come from Italy, with most of the statues from Vienna or Spain or the United States,” Minvielle said. Minvielle said although the shop started small, they now ship items all over the country, as far away as California and Hawaii, due to their online
A Legacy of Trust
store and mail-order catalog. “This is my first time in the shop,” Gloria Chrisman, of Abbeville said recently. “I just like to come in and look at all of the religious things.” One of the most important things to Minvielle was to keep the business within the family to keep the legacy of his father going. He said the next generation, which includes his own children as well as nieces and nephews, are not necessarily as religious as he and his siblings are. While he does not mind this, he only hopes his family will be able to keep what Robert started into the future. “My father always tried to be fair with his customers and especially of the church and priests,” Minvielle said. “I just hope that can continue.”
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Profile 2010 / Celebrating Our Community
The Daily Iberian / Thursday, February 11, 2010 / page 7
Crawfish pond yields growing regional sensation BY PATRICK FLANAGAN THE DAILY IBERIAN
T. MARTINVILLE — When spring rolls around and Teche Area residents begin to eat crawfish from local restaurants and grocers, there is a good chance they will be eating mudbugs grown and caught on a rice pond at the Durand family farm in St. Martinville. Marin Durand, along with his wife, Joane Conery Durand, began raising crawfish and growing rice during the mid1960s. The Durands and their nine children — Matt, Jeff, Edgar, Danny, Greg, C.J., Connie, Margot and Joane — opened Teche Valley Seafood Inc., in 1983 to process tail meat from the family’s crawfish farm. Teche Valley was expanded after representatives from LSU AgCenter advised the family to switch from a boiler to a slow cooker. The slow cooker spawned the creation of Teche Valley’s trademark Crawfish Puree, which can be found on the shelves of 50 grocery stores in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama, and has even become a mainstay ingredient for chefs in Louisiana and Texas restaurants. Teche Valley begins making the puree in late March and through April when the volume of crawfish in the ponds is suitable for harvesting. The process of making the puree involves running medium to large crawfish on a conveyer belt that runs underneath a slow cooker — similar in appearance to a pizza oven. The crawfish — shells in-tact — are then dumped from the conveyer belt into an ice-filled chiller. Afterward, the
RECIPE O Crawfish Puree Cornbread: O 2 eggs O 1 tsp. salt O 1 tsp. baking soda O 1/4 cup oil O 1 med. onion chopped fine O 2 cups of Mexican cheese O 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped jalapenos O 1 can cream of corn O 8 oz. Crawfish Puree Mix all ingredients together. Pour into greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes. crawfish are run through a deboning machine, minced, and then packed into containers for shipping. “We could start now, but there’s not enough volume, so we usually start making it at the end of March and during the month of April because that’s when the fat is the best,” Teche Valley Manager Margot Durand said. “It’s a pretty orange color then, and that’s when it’s the most flavorful.” She said that while people often think the puree is made from the small, trash bound crawfish, “We only use the medium to large peeling size crawfish because we want the most juice.” For the undesired small crawfish, Durand said, “we bring them back to the pond to be caught another day.” Beginning in 2007, the
PATRICK FLANAGAN / THE DAILY IBERIAN
Marin Durand, along with his wife Joane Conery, opened Teche Valley Seafood Inc. in 1983 to process crawfish tail meat.
As a member of Associated Grocers Inc. — a coalition of independent grocery stores — Teche Valley’s puree has made its way onto the shelves of 50 stores. O company began targeting grocery stores and restaurants to market the puree. As a member of Associated Grocers Inc. — a coalition of independent grocery stores in Louisiana, Texas,
Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama — Teche Valley’s puree has made its way onto the shelves of 50 stores. The puree can be found locally at Bi-Lo Supermarket, Simoneaud’s Grocery and Menard Bros. and Miller’s Market. Renowned chef and St. Martinville native Marcelle Bienvenu also has been influential in the success of Teche Valley’s puree. Bienvenu, who was recently inducted into the Acadian Museum’s Order of Living Legends, uses the crawfish puree to teach culinary arts at the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. Margo Durand said Bienvenu helped promote the puree early on, which led to a 2008 feature story in Taste of the South magazine. Along with Bienvenu, the chefs at the Houstonbased Louisiana Foods
‘Our most popular recipes are the crawfish cornbread and crawfish dip. You can make them in no time, they’re very easy recipes.’ Margot Durand Teche Valley Seafood O Global Seafood Source also use puree in their crawfish bisque and etoufee, which are distributed to nine restaurants in Houston. Restaurants using Teche Valley’s puree locally include Little River Inn,
The Landing, Billeaud’s II and La Maison in St. Martinville. With the success of Teche Valley’s restaurant and grocery markets distribution, the company is now focusing on the consumer market through its Web site, which has a growing puree-based recipe list. “Our most popular recipes are the crawfish cornbread and crawfish dip,” Margot Durand said. “You can make them in no time, they’re very easy recipes.” In addition, Teche Valley received an Award of Merit for Outstanding Accomplishments in Resource Conservation from the St. Martin Soil and Water Conservation District in 1996 and 1997. “We are very environmentally conscious, we take pride in our work,” Company President C.J. Durand said.
page 8 / Thursday, February 11, 2010 / The Daily Iberian Profile 2010 / Celebrating Our Community
HOLLY LELEUX-THUBRON / THE DAILY IBERIAN
Dennis Higginbotham, left, and Malcolm Bonin pour shrimp into the mix that will become shrimp pistolettes.
Cajun boy comes home for food BY HOLLY LELEUX-THUBRON THE DAILY IBERIAN
our years ago Dennis Higginbotham was searching for a way to mesh his love of cooking with work. He spent most of his career working for AT&T as an outside plant engineer. His work took him to many parts of the country until a time came when he longed to be “Cajun again.” He began a search for a company to purchase at the same time Dan Bodin, owner of Menard Bros. grocery store in New Iberia, decided to sell Bodin’s Boudin, a boudin processing facility located at Acadiana Regional Airport. The plant was built in October 1979, Higginbotham said and has been a USDA certified processing facility since 1980. On Dec. 1, 2006, Higginbotham bought Bodin’s Boudin facility
and also acquired another company, Blance’s Pistolettes, from Tony Romero of Lafayette. He moved the pistolette manufacturing to the facility in Iberia Parish and started producing product immediately. Cajun Original Foods was born. Higginbotham’s wife, Jeanette, said she was hesitant of the big move but took the plunge alongside her husband “for him,” she said. Several new products have come out of the facility including breakfast, alligator, shrimp and crap stuffed pistolettes and a relatively new product called Brown Kwik, which is a cheaper alternative to the popular kitchen staple Kitchen Bouquet. Higginbotham is the idea man, but new products don’t evolve from his work alone, he said. “I come up with the ideas,” he said. “I bounce them off of all my team, and we’re constantly improving them until we know
‘This business was tailor made for me. I would never go back to the hum-drum corporate world.’ Dennis Higginbotham Owner of Cajun Original Foods O they’re ready for prime time.” The facility currently sells to grocery distributors like Associated Grocers and PFG Cairo, Higginbotham said, and just won a major contract with the Iberia Parish School Board to provide breakfast Pistolettes to area schools and also offers
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retire anytime soon.” On any given day the plant can manufacture 1 ton of boudin, more than 3,000 stuffed pistolettes, 400 gallons of brown quick and 2,400 stuffed pies, Pacetti said. The pace is quick, but quality always remains the most important element, Higginbotham said. He said he will continue to grow the business but in an “organic way.” Pacetti agreed slow and steady growth is the safest way. “The quality of the food stays with you that way,” she said. Higginbotham said he has never been happier or more fulfilled at work. “This business was tailor made for me,” he said. “I would never go back to the hum-drum corporate world. I’m enjoying the toned down atmosphere and the culture of the area I missed so much.”
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the products for purchase on its Web site — cajunoriginal.com. Higginbotham said he’s had Internet-based orders nationwide, from both coasts and is hoping to expand into the international market. Dean Pacetti has worked at the facility for more than 40 years and made the transition from Bodin’s Boudin to Cajun Original Foods. She is currently the HACCP coordinator, which means she makes sure the facility follows the USDA’s strict set of rules for hazard analysis, ensuring the plant is sanitary and that any product that comes into the facility isn’t tainted. Janette Higginbotham said without the stellar employees on board at the plant, it could not achieve the goals set forth for cleanliness and quality. “This has been my life,” Pacetti said of working at the plant. “It’s a good place to be. I enjoy cooking and I don’t think I’m going to
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DEY W H AT DAT BOUT S AY A O am truly
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Profile 2010 / Celebrating Our Community
The Daily Iberian / Thursday, February 11, 2010 / page 9
AmeriPure is pearl of Franklin Oyster processor uses patented process to get rid of bacteria that gives the delicacy a bad name.
‘We use a patented, all-natural process to reduce potentially harmful bacteria in raw oysters, to create a safe product.’
BY HOWARD J. CASTAY JR. SPECIAL TO THE DAILY IBERIAN
RANKLIN — Nestled deep on a corner of one of Franklin’s busiest streets could be the Gulf South’s largest oyster processing company. While marketing its trade with catch phrases like, “raw desire,” “unadulterated pleasure,” and “once forbidden passion” and photos that seem as if they’ve been borrowed from the pages of romance novels, AmeriPure has been shipping millions of oysters across the United States since the mid 1990s, using a patent process that meets and passes all health regulations, including those set by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Once more, the company pumps an annual payroll of $1.5 million into the St. Mary Parish economy, as most of its employees live in the area. But this figure doesn’t include the thousands of additional tax dollars it sinks locally, not to mention monthly utility costs that far Patrick Fahey, managing partner of exceed $10,000 during summer months, and that creep close to that number during winter ing a safe product and “the raw months. consumable delicacy that many Additionally, the company tra- people love and enjoy.” ditionally buys 80 percent of its The process begins when live product from Louisiana fisherharvested oysters are pressure men. washed to remove natural grit Simply put, managing partner and debris from their shells, Patrick Fahey said, “AmeriPure then culled by seasoned profesprovides seafood wholesalers sionals to ensure half-shell qualand distributors with premium ity. After grading for size, the quality half-shell oysters that oysters are individually hand have a superior shelf-life and banded with a rubber band, yield factor. We use a patented, which allows each oyster to all-natural process to reduce retain its natural flavor, or potentially harmful bacteria in liquor, as those in the industry raw oysters, to create a safe describe it. product.” The oysters are then placed Fahey said the company into a warm water 140 degree reduces Vibrio vulnificus and bath. Heat levels are maintained Vibrio parahaemolyticus bactewith computerized temperature ria to undetectable levels, creatcontrols that are calibrated to
Patrick Fahey Managing partner of AmeriPure O regulations, most wholesalers don’t want to pay more for the product, which is roughly 8 to 10 cents per pound more than an unprocessed oyster. “So restaurants opt to fry, bake or grill the product, which allows them to bypass the need for buying a product that’s processed,” he said. Still, Fahey pointed to the fact that even in New Orleans, there are a few restaurants that use his product. “We’ve been selling raw oysters in my family for 50 years, and I was impressed with the flaHOWARD J. CASTAY JR. / SPECIAL TO THE DAILY IBERIAN vor of these oysters. I really AmeriPure, is pictured at his oyster procession plant in Franklin. was,” said customer Ti Martin of Commander’s Palace in New kill off the bacteria. The warm bacteria scare? Orleans. “They had a strong flawater bath is followed by an ice Fahey said that since he vor of the sea, which to me, is cold 40 degree shock bath, to fur- joined John Tesvich, a fourthwhat I’m looking for. I don’t want ther shock the bacteria and stop generation oysterman from Port it to be some purified something. the transfer of heat. Sulphur who founded the comI want to know it’s an oyster. And As many as 1,500 oysters can pany, the organization has these were really good.” be treated at one time with the grown tenfold since 1995, when AmeriPure is also slated for process, which lasts about 24 it started. expansion with yet another new minutes. He said the process has process, one that involves freezAlso, since each oyster has a opened new markets for oyster ing. Fahey said the company is rubber band around it, it is sales, in addition to reviving looking to open operations in sealed from the water process at some markets that had declined Myrtle Grove, in Plaquemines all times. There is no filtering, due to the vibrio scare. Parish. “Raw oysters are a passion purification, or chemicals “In fact, (last) week we that knows no bounds. As our involved. shipped 46,000 oysters to Miami “These in-shell oysters are for the Super Bowl,” Fahey said. marketing literature states, it’s a romance unfettered by anything still raw and have to be shucked “Most of our business is out of more than a squeeze of lemon fresh,” Fahey said. state — about 97 percent.” or a dash of hot sauce. There’s So is this simple process the However, Fahey pointed out pearl the oyster industry needs that although his product is safe no difference in taste, texture or appearance,” he said. to stay afloat in the wake of the and it meets all governmental
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page 10 / Thursday, February 11, 2010 / The Daily Iberian Profile 2010 / Celebrating Our Community
Delcambre native ‘makes groceries’ Sigur opens meat market after storms chase off some businesses BY JESSICA GOFF THE DAILY IBERIAN
JESSICA GOFF / THE DAILY IBERIAN
Shawn Sigur doesn’t mind getting his hands messy when working at his meat market in Delcambre. Sigur opened his store after Hurricane Ike’s storm surge flooded the town in 2008. It was the second time Delcambre was overcome by storm surge in three years.
ELCAMBRE — Locals have striven to regain a sense of normalcy after the city was leveled by Hurricane Rita in 2005. Last summer the area saw its first grocery store since a second storm, Hurricane Ike, flooded the Iberia Parish town again in 2008. Shawn’s Cajun Meats Too at 210 W. Louisiana 14, was opened in 2009 by Delcambre local Shawn Sigur. Sigur said the store’s opening was a bitter-sweet challenge. “The timing was just right, the building was already here, location was in a good place where people can find it. But it was the toughest thing I ever did,” Sigur said. “You are working for yourself and your aren’t getting paid. In the beginning you are just trying to make ends meet. But it feels good to open up a place in your own hometown. That’s what counts. You aren’t doing this just for yourself.” The store specializes in a variety meats from fresh cut steaks and homemade boudin. Sigur also sells his own homemade syrup sausage and cream cheesefilled pork loin. He said with the nearest grocery store in Earth, word about the store has spread quickly. “Honestly, you can get everything over there,” he said. “People aren’t going to necessarily grocery shop over here, but it’s the convenience of it here. Our town supports us, we’ve got some good people around us.”
‘It’s rewarding when you open up a place like this and you see people around who appreciate it.’ Shawn Sigur Delcambre business owner O Delcambre Mayor Carol Broussard calls the store a lifesaver for the city. “Most of the other businesses have come back and rebuilt except for the grocery business. “His store has been a real lifesaver for us. It’s
not really convenient to have to drive 11 miles down the road to Erath, Abbevile or New Iberia. And sometimes if you are on your way back from there you realized you’ve forgotten something. It’s been a big help
for all of us.” Sigur says he works 75 to 80 hours a week but said the job is worth it. “It’s rewarding when you open up a place like this and you see people around who appreciate it,” he said.
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