Fresh faced Sebastien Simon does not sport the formidable mustache of his father. His English is only slightly accented, and he has a fondness for beer. But the Gallic twinkle in his eye is a dead giveaway that the son, like the father, loves to celebrate life in all its bounty: wine, food and family.
Sebastien has just been named general manager of his father’s Lafayette wine shop, Philippe’s Wine Cellar. And if that weren’t enough promotion for the 26-year-old, the family has announced that the business will open a New Orleans location in April. Sebastien will be the general manager of the new shop as well.
“It’s a great opportunity,” says Sebastien.
Sebastien, who has worked for his parents at Philippe’s for 11 years, recently became a certified sommelier, following a demanding course that focuses on tasting, service and food pairing. He has been traveling in France and Italy, meeting growers and seeking out undiscovered wines his family would like to introduce to the American market. These skills and contacts put him on the path his father once followed as Philippe Simon learned his trade in restaurants in Burgundy.
Emigres to the United States, Philippe and Sylvie Simon opened Philippe’s Wine Cellar in 1999 in Lafayette’s Oil Center. Fifteen years later and now located at 3809 Ambassador Caffery Parkway on Lafayette’s populous south side, the business is more successful than ever. Read more about the family business in The IND’s 2009 cover story, “The Wine Seller.”
Beginning to hand over the reins makes sense for Philippe Simon, 57, who would like to spend more time traveling. But branching out into New Orleans was Sebastian’s idea.
“I had to persuade him,” Sebastien says. “I have three brothers. Aurelien just came back to the store, and Emilien will turn 21 soon.” Their youngest brother, Roman, is 18. If there is to be room for the family to grow into the business, the business must also grow.
Stars do have a way of aligning. A storefront opened up for lease in the 3500 block of Magazine Street in New Orleans in 2014. It is a fortuitous location, most recently housing a branch of the venerable Martin’s Wine Cellar, which relocated there after Hurricane Katrina. Martin’s has just reopened in its pre-Katrina location on Baronne Street in New Orleans. But for the past nine years, residents of the thriving Magazine shopping district have been flocking to the Garden District location for good wine. Shoppers won’t miss a beat.
Sebastien says that the New Orleans shop will be a reflection of the Lafayette flagship, with its carefully selected wine at all price points. New Orleans oenophiles won’t have to make the drive to Lafayette anymore, and Sebastien hopes to woo a whole new generation of wine drinkers. “I want to expand and grow it, bring something new,” he says.
As well as something old.
He is his father’s son in that regard. “I am going to work hard,” says Sebastien, “for the success of my family.”