Business News

’Best job ever’ meets oil bust

by Christiaan Mader

Paul Ayo at E's Kitchen shuts 'er down, citing a slumping economy and legal issues for the sudden closure.

Ayo at a recent E's Kitchen event for Eat Lafayette
Robin May

After five years of operation, E’s Kitchen has closed its doors. Owner Paul Ayo announced in a tearful video posted to Facebook on Monday that the kitchen shop had succumbed to declining revenue associated with Lafayette’s down economy, officially ceasing operations over the weekend.

Ayo said that August’s historic floods gave way to a weak Christmas shopping season, ultimately spelling the end.

“We knew if we didn’t have a very good Christmas, it was going to be very hard for us to continue,” Ayo tells ABiz.

Ayo’s video noted some “legal issues” surrounding E’s closure, although he declined to comment further in an interview with ABiz.

Ayo attributes at least some of the dip in sales to policies and practices of Parc Lafayette’s property manager, GRS Properties. Late last year, Ayo publicly chastised GRS for banning the faddish geocaching game Pokemon Go from the grounds of its flagship luxury shopping center, saying the move discouraged shoppers from visiting Parc Lafayette’s fleet of stores.

In its gripe with Niantic, the company behind Pokemon Go, GRS claimed that players littered, damaged monuments and landscaping and clogged up limited parking availability.

A representative of GRS properties told The Daily Advertiser that they were unaware of any legal issues surrounding E's closing, and only heard of the shut down when Ayo posted the video Monday.

E’s Kitchen had operated in Parc Lafayette since 2012. After a year of success, Ayo says GRS courted E’s to a larger space, building out the new suite to accommodate an on-site show kitchen where Ayo’s hosted events and cooking classes. E’s Kitchen operated in that location from 2013 until its closing over the weekend.

The shop reflected Ayo’s eclectic passion for cooking, selling an array of useful kitchen oddities that paired with a slate of cooking classes and special events.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had in my life,” Ayo says.

Several small shops like E’s have suffered Lafayette’s down economy, tagged to a collapse in the price of oil that has cost thousands of jobs after several years of boom. Just last week, the Louisiana Workforce Commission reported that Lafayette shed 6,500 jobs over the last year, a more than 3 percent decline seen mostly in the oil and gas sector. Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lake Charles all posted job gains over 2015.

Ayo says that his shop’s luxury wares were difficult purchases to make for people trying to make ends meet.

“When you’re out of work, you don’t buy the extras like we had,” Ayo said.

Despite the lingering retail slump, fellow Parc Lafayette specialty boutiques Shoe La La and Kiddeaux’s both report an uptick in sales in recent months. Both also report having a good relationship with Parc Lafayette, and no problems with complex policies.

Ayo told The Daily Advertiser that he’s currently working on a location to host the last few cooking classes the shop had scheduled.