Turk File

Turk File - October 2009

by Leslie Turk


Though it had only been open for about a year, the Johnston Street Adrien’s Supermarket had already become a favorite for many shoppers in the area. A clean store, fresh meats and specialty foods, a solid selection of Louisiana products and a hometown atmosphere, its hallmarks pulled business in from the east side of Johnston Street. The new store benefited from the many shoppers who now have easy access thanks to the Camellia Boulevard bridge, while the Congress Street store less than a mile away continues to serve its loyal base of customers. Situated at the corner of Camellia Boulevard and Johnston Street, the site in the Grand Marche shopping center.

But on Sunday loyal shoppers got an unpleasant surprise when they arrived to a sign on the door noting that the Johnston Street store had fallen victim to a slowdown in the local economy.

Adrien’s is owned by Pat Palombo, who bought the grocer in 1999 after working there almost three decades. Palombo could not be reached for comment before press time.

It’s unclear what effect the bankruptcy of Affiliated Foods Southwest, Adrien’s Arkansas-based wholesale food distribution cooperative, might have had on the decision to close the Johnston Street store. On May 5, a week after it said it hoped to sell or merge, Affiliated Foods filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and said that it was in the process of liquidating its assets.

Real estate and development professionals agree that the best use of the roughly 22,000-square-foot space on Johnston is a grocery store — a locally owned grocery store (that part is my humble opinion). Message to Palombo: Whatever the case, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that something can be worked out. We want our Johnston Street Adrien’s back!


Gene Todaro, the affable Sicilian who made Marcello’s Wine Market Café on Kaliste Saloom Road one of Lafayette’s most popular eateries, is at it again. Todaro is opening the Elephant Room in the old Fazoli’s at Kaliste Saloom and Ambassador Caffery Parkway. The steakhouse concept, which Todaro conceived, plans to serve Argentine, American and Japanese beef, along with a raw bar offering tartare and carpaccio. The Elephant Room hopes to be open by early next year.

In April Todaro and his son, Gene Jr., opened Enoteca Marcello in Baton Rouge, a two-in-one Italian concept much like Marcello’s (properly pronounced Mar-chello’s) on Kaliste Saloom, which launched in November 2007. In Lafayette customers walk in through rows of wine bottles, all of them for sale at retail prices. Tables are situated near the wine racks, and when the restaurant is busy, shopping for the evening’s wine is a great way to wait for a table. Lafayette diners are charged a $10 corkage fee rather than the usual 100-200 percent markup, making drinking a bottle of wine while dining at Marcello’s one of the best bargains in town.

While the concepts are similar, the Baton Rouge restaurant has a significantly bigger bar business.

The concept of a wine market inside of a restaurant, which will also be a feature of the Elephant Room, is based on the elder Todaro’s knowledge of how people buy wine. “My idea is to marry the concept of wine and food, making wine more accessible to the dining public. Lots of people are intimidated by waiters and wine lists. Here, they can grab what they like without defending their choice,” he says.

The Todaro family has been operating restaurants in Lafayette since the early 1980s, opening their first location in a strip center south of the Mall of Acadiana.


An upscale Chinese bistro, Shanghai Moon, is opening in Lafayette. While a definitive date is not set, Shanghai Moon hopes to be open in late September. “I felt like what Lafayette needed was an upscale and fresh Chinese restaurant,” says Brandon Lee, owner/operator of Shanghai Moon. Lee says Shanghai Moon will feature chefs from around the world with years of experience in preparing upscale Chinese cuisine.

Shanghai Moon is located at 5621 Johnston St., next to Best Buy.


Energy prices continue to ride a roller coaster, though of late some stability has set in. Sept. 16 was a good day for south Louisiana’s oil- and gas-dependent industry, as the price of both natural gas and oil rose sharply amid indications demand may be on the rise due to increases in factory output, a surge in auto production and the approaching winter. Natural gas jumped to $3.76 per million BTU, a 44 cent increase, and benchmark crude for October delivery was up $1.58 to $72.51 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

But as soon as the price of oil went up, U.S. crude-oil inventories showed an unexpected gain, increasing by 2.8 million barrels, catching off balance analysts who’d been anticipating a decline of almost that much. And while crude prices have been rising for months, by Sept. 23 oil was back below $70 a barrel.

Natural gas, which hit seven-year lows in September, rose that same day. But it’s still a bargain — too good a bargain for the industry’s taste.

Unfortunately, these upticks are not sufficient to ward off impending fourth-quarter layoffs in the oil and gas service sector, maintains Don Briggs of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. “[The price increase] doesn’t change that. I think, unfortunately, some companies will be laying people off. Everyone is trying to hang on to everyone they can. They don’t want to lose those key people.” The record low rig counts — about 25 rigs are running in the Gulf of Mexico and 18 on south Louisiana land — are the real sore spot, Briggs says. “It’s never been that bad.” In 1999, which was Louisiana’s lowest average annual rig count of 141 rigs, SLA Land rigs averaged 21 for the year.

“People have different opinions about why the prices are going up,” says Briggs, noting the normal increases at this time due to anticipated demand during the winter months. “One thing is for sure: They were undervalued. Natural gas went too low, from $13 in July last year to $2.41 last week. Oil went from $147 [per barrel] to $35,” he continues. “It’s correcting.”

Compiled and edited by Leslie Turk; e-mail her at [email protected] .