Wining & Dining
Eateries that Dared to Open in an Economic Downturn
9/1/2020 1:00:00 PM

Eateries that dared to open


It is said that the coronavirus has caused the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Some entrepreneurs might shy away from a new venture at a questionable financial time such as this. But for others, it was apparently the ideal time to hang out the open sign. According to the Calcasieu Parish Sales Tax Collector’s office, an impressive 29 new food-related businesses have launched since March 2020. That’s a lot of gutsy risk-taking! But at least for the following three eateries, it seems to be working out well.


Lulu’s Specialty Snocones and More


Ashley and Jonathan Frantz, along with their daughter Lulu, opened Lulu’s Specialty Snocones early last month. They had dreamed of owning a family business for years, so when they found themselves with a lot of time on their hands during the pandemic and stay at-home orders, they recognized an opportunity. "Of course, it’s a scary time and even more scary to invest during a pandemic, but the flip side is ‘why not try?’” Ashley says.


They saw a need for a snow cone stand in South Lake Charles and credit Dan and Carol Elliot (retired owners of Elliot’s Cajun Snowballs) with helping them get started. "They have been lifesavers in this journey and have been so encouraging and supportive,” Ashley adds.


The Frantz family takes the concept of snow cones to an entirely higher level. Their concoctions are creative, whimsical, tempting, and at times, shockingly large! Popular specialty items include their Berry Cheesecake, Rainbow Brite, and Cotton Candy Sweet as Gold. "You often see these fun types of desserts in larger cities like Austin or New Orleans. Well, Lake Charles is a great place and we can have what the bigger cities have, too!”


When Lulu’s first opened, the Frantzs and their staff were caught off guard by the community’s huge response. Unexpected long lines and wait times were something they addressed and improved on quickly by tweaking their process. "We knew we would have a decent amount of support . . . but nothing like this!” Ashley says. "We prayed over this business before it was even ours and asked God to send us the people who needed a smile and a sweet treat to make their day better, and well, it seems we got what we asked for!” Ashley and Jonathon also thank their social media manager, Cherie Soileau, for getting the word out to the community.


The Frantzs say they love people and value relationships more than anything, and Lulu’s is an extension of that conviction. "It’s much bigger than a snow cone. It’s the overall experience, the interactions, the priceless time together with friends and family, and a chance for us to meet our customers.”


Ashley says snow cones are nostalgic. "Every person I told about our plans had great memories of working at a snow cone stand or going to one as a kid with their family. Everything surrounding a snow cone stand is happy and joyful. That’s what we want for Lulu’s – sweet memories!”



Lake Chuck Melts


James Beck, II and fiancée Amanda O’Connor opened a big yellow can’t-miss-it food truck called Lake Chuck Melts in July. They primarily serve toasted sandwiches – aka melts – and homemade soups for lunch. They are also open for breakfast, dishing out hash brown bowls, hotcake sandwiches, and biscuits.


James says opening a new business anytime in life is stressful and never an easy choice, but doing so during a pandemic added even more pressure. Yet they recognized advantages to a food truck concept. "We saw opening a mobile food truck as a great opportunity. "Currently, many people are hesitant to eat indoors due to the virus. With a food truck, we’re in the open air and customers are not confined inside a brick and mortar establishment.”


James says he and Amanda have both always loved to cook. She has had food industry experience, but James’ background lies in the oil fields. He had been working in Illinois on a year-long turn around job when Covid-19 shut the refinery down early and prompted him to come home. "We jumped right into searching for a truck and getting to work.” James appreciates that his new-found profession allows him to be home with his family rather than traveling.


Big sellers include their Cajun Fire Melt, made with boudin, tasso, and sausage with caramelized onions, Pepper Jack and Smoked Cheddar Cheeses on a choice of marbled rye or garlic toast; and their Philly Cheese Steak Melt on garlic toast, made with sliced sirloin steak, caramelized onions, mushrooms, peppers, roasted garlic aioli, American and Swiss. "Our roasted garlic aioli is made fresh in house.”


James and Amanda hope that Lake Chuck Melts will become a regular Southwest Louisiana dining option. They plan to participate in several community events such as the American Legion Craft Fair/Food Truck event in Kinder, Louisiana, hosted by Eric Kuyper on September 19, 2020. 


Being a food truck, they move around day to day and can often be found at Lake Area Adventures, 5959 Common St. Check their Facebook page for daily hours and locations.


The Village Coffeehouse 


Two years ago, when co-owners Blake Foreman and Aaron Quinn, along with some close friends, first conceived the idea to open a coffee shop and bakery, they envisioned something much more than merely a place to pick up a cup of joe and a danish. "Our passion for authentic community has always been a part of who we are,” Foreman says. "We desire to meet people where they are in life. To better love our neighbors. To recognize those who are otherwise unseen. To bring unity in the midst of a diverse community. To discover and activate the best in every person. To create a culture of encounter where everyone is seen, valued, and given a fair shot in this world. And to passionately pursue this reality while providing excellent products and experiences.” Namely, great coffee and baked goods!


The Village Coffeehouse opened for business late June. It never occurred to them that starting a new venture during a pandemic-driven economic downturn might be a risky time. "We were absolutely convinced this was happening before we took the first step and never looked back,” Foreman adds. And they were right! The Sulphur community has embraced them and exceeded their expectations.


And no wonder. The Village Coffeehouse specializes in a variety of premium coffee options, including cold brews. Too late in the day for caffeine? They also serve smoothies and other beverages. If you’re hungry, you’ll find fresh-made biscuits, scones, muffins, cookies, and sandwiches, including avocado toast. They also serve enchilada and roasted red pepper soups. Then pick up a pan of cinnamon rolls to take home!


Unlike a food truck or a drive-thru window, a coffeeshop is primarily indoors, though this establishment does include a drive-thru and outdoor seating, as well. Foreman says it has been difficult to balance social distancing while at the same time, "encouraging everyone to engage one another for the purpose of positive community, restoring significance to our neighbors, and contributing to the well-being of one another. We’ve been tough on our staff to love our neighbors well by following all health guidelines and have strongly encouraged our patrons to do the same.”


Located at 121 S. Huntington Street, Sulphur, LA. Find them on Facebook and thevillagecoffeehouse.org.

Posted by: Angie Kay Dilmore | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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