Turk File

Turk File 08.31.2011

Shifting Gears
A retired couple's leap into an oil change franchise on Ambassador Caffery fares far better than expected.
By Andrea Gallo

Marc and Karen Hayden of Express Oil Change

Shifting Gears
A retired couple's leap into an oil change franchise on Ambassador Caffery fares far better than expected.
By Andrea Gallo

The economy was dropping, their 401K was tanking and the future of social security was unpredictable. Those circumstances led Marc and Karen Hayden, a married couple both aged 56, away from retiring and into the unknown tools, garages and tires of opening Express Oil Change and Service Center.

The Haydens are not alone in suffering from retirement anxiety among their baby boomer peers. Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America found in March that 35 percent of baby boomers felt "totally unprepared" financially for retirement. A recent Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll reveals only 11 percent of people are assured they are financially poised for retirement. The jitters are being felt thousands of miles away, as newspapers in Montreal, England, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand have reported the trend as well.

"It was very scary to change careers at our age," Karen says. "It still is."
Despite the risky career change, the Haydens are happy in their new field, which they researched extensively. Both carry marine industry sales backgrounds where they lived in Slidell, but their sales jobs demanded frequent travel, leaving them less time to spend together. That's when the couple began thinking about opening a franchise. Hurricane Katrina hit and further inspired them to start a venture in Lafayette.

Karen and Marc say research and not being afraid to step out of their box were two important parts of starting their business. They took a class from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and perused opening coffee shops, post offices and Subways. Oil changes, they discovered, are pretty recession-proof since vehicles are necessities in today's society.

The Haydens liked the Express Oil Change and Service Center franchise because it offered both oil change and service shop components. Marc says customers can sit in their cars, drive through a bay and have their oil changed within 10 minutes.

That and high-touch customer service are what will set apart Express Oil Change, the Haydens say. Customers are greeted within 15 seconds of arriving on the lot, where they are thanked for coming and told the cost and time of whatever work their car needs. Workers service the car by checking fluids, filters, tires and more, while a safety check on headlights, tail lights, break lights and the horn wraps up an appointment.

If anything from a maintenance standpoint needs to be addressed, the Haydens say they will show the customer the problem, and if he or she chooses, they can take care of it. Express Oil Change can provide most car maintenance except for re-building transmissions and engines.

Express Oil Change and Service Center charges $39 for an oil change that includes up to five quarts of oil. Each additional quart costs $6.

Business has been taking off thus far, which the Haydens attribute to their location, 3735 Ambassador Caffery Parkway next to Home Depot. The first week, Marc says, they serviced 180 cars - about 26 cars per day - and the franchisor told them the average opening car count was between seven and 10 cars per day.

Marc and Karen have been working together for years, giving them the comfort of knowing how the other operates in the workplace.

"We lean on each other," Karen says. Their combined confidence convinced them they could abandon retirement in favor of a new career, and they hope to open another Express Oil Change in Lafayette.

"We said, we can rely on ourselves, even in a new venture," Marc says. "We needed to have control over our destiny, which we do have now."

Burlington Coat deal moving along
Before the end of the year, a Burlington Coat Factory could be up and running in the old Super Kmart on Ambassador Caffery Parkway.

Houston-based Fidelis Realty Partners purchased the former K-mart site this summer to make way for Burlington, which will occupy about 75,000 square feet of the almost 200,000 square foot building. Lafayette Consolidated Government permit records indicate that the total renovation project is valued at $4.5 million, including $600,000 on demo and façade work that is now complete.

Another permit for remaining tenant improvements was issued by local government in early August. The building, which was built in 1994, has been vacant since 2003.

If the renovation project goes as planned, Burlington could be open by November.

Fidelis reps did not return phone calls about whether the remaining space has been leased.

Burlington, headquartered in New Jersey, sells designer merchandise at discount prices. Its stores feature coats, apparel, shoes, accessories, baby clothes, furniture, toys, home decor items and gifts. It has more than 450 stores in 44 states.

When the Burlington deal was first announced in May, Fidelis also indicated that it had a letter of intent with Whole Foods to construct a store on an outparcel at the site. Fidelis, it turned out, spoke too soon - as Whole Foods immediately responded that it had not signed any such agreement. Since that time, a potential Whole Foods deal at that location appears to have gone cold.
- Leslie Turk

Beau Box, Valor Merge
Monty Warren's commercial real estate firm is now the Lafayette office of Beau Box Commercial.
By Leslie Turk

Lafayette based Valor Commercial Real Estate has merged with Baton Rouge-based Beau Box Commercial Real Estate and will operate under the Beau Box name. Monty Warren, who founded Valor in early 2009, has been named vice president of the newly merged entity.

"This partnership provides an opportunity for my team to continue to have top producing agents who pride themselves on having the most up-to-date and thorough market knowledge," says Warren.

Valor Commercial's staff of five in Lafayette will expand to seven and remain on Rue Iberville, joining 30 employees in Baton Rouge and New Orleans from the Beau Box firm. The merger not only positions both firms to better serve their clients, but it also allows for strategic growth in areas of commercial brokerage, site selection, property management, development, consulting and corporate real estate services.

Beau Box Commercial represents many big-box national chain stores in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. The firm assists clients in procuring retail space, office property, vacant land and industrial properties.

Warren is a graduate of ESA in Cade and attended Washington and Lee University and Middle Tennessee State University. Starting his career in commercial real estate in 1991 in Nashville, Tenn., he worked with developers in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. He relocated to Louisiana in 1998 and served as real estate development manager of Pool Corporation in Covington. In 2007, Warren returned to Lafayette and served as vice president/director of Stirling Properties' commercial brokerage division. He founded Valor two years later, specializing in tenant and buyer representation assignments. He most recently secured the site for a 200,000-square-foot, $65 million Halliburton manufacturing facility and is also assisting the Schumacher Group with its recently announced headquarters expansion.

Beau Box was founded in 2005 by Beau J. Box of Baton Rouge, who has been in the real estate industry since 1993. Box says his firm, which is headquartered at 8710 Jefferson Highway in Baton Rouge and has a New Orleans office at 1100 Poydras St., now ranks among the highest grossing commercial real estate firms in the state.

Hammering Away
Schumacher Homes' new design center in Scott replaces Ambassador location

Schumacher Homes recently unveiled its new design center on South Frontage Road in Scott, where it is also showcasing two newly built model homes.

Based in Canton, Ohio, the company expanded to the Acadiana area in 2007 with a design center on Ambassador Caffery Parkway. The new Scott store replaces that location.

While the company has been building in the southern Louisiana marketplace since 2007, these are the first model homes in Louisiana for the family-run Schumacher Homes. The design center allows customers to experience what the company calls its simple buying process first-hand, while the model homes showcase the latest in architectural, color and interior design trends.

"Building model homes is the best way for us to show our customers what we can really do. We give them the opportunity to walk through the homes, see the quality, see the design, and take in the full, exciting experience," says company CEO Paul Schumacher. "While other homebuilders are moving out of the market, we are not only expanding our reach but making substantial investments into the marketplaces and communities that we build in, like Lafayette."

The center and homes are located at 812 I-10 South Frontage Road in Scott. The homes display one of the most popular Schumacher floor plans available - the Beverly II D model - and the Brooke B model, a floor plan just made available. They also present customization options, including an outdoor kitchen and fireplace, interior brick archways and a gated courtyard.

Schumacher Homes is America's largest custom home builder, with operations in 32 markets in 14 states across the country. The company has built more than 8,000 homes since its founding by Paul Schumacher in 1992.

Hub City's chamber best in the nation

The city's biggest friend of local businesses has received a top honor. The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce was named National Chamber of the Year.

According to a release from the Lafayette chamber, staffers got official word of their win in Los Angeles the evening of Aug. 4 at the American Chamber of Commerce Executives' annual convention. The award is given for excellence in operations, member services and community leadership.

"This is a tremendous honor that only up to four chambers in four categories may receive annually recognizing the chamber as among the best in the nation," the local chamber noted in announcing the award. Applicants are judged by a panel of peers and previous award recipients from across the country.

The national recognition is the latest for the Lafayette Chamber. Earlier in 2011, the Chamber earned reaccreditation with a five-star rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is the only program of its kind that defines excellence in chamber planning and recognizes chambers for outstanding contributions toward positive change in their communities. The five-star accreditation places the Lafayette organization in the top 1 percent of some 7,000 chambers across the U.S.

In other chamber news, the not-for-profit's Leadership Lafayette, a nationally recognized program in which 25 movers and shakers come together each year to participate, is taking applications for its 2012 session. The deadline to submit applications is Oct. 28. - Heather Miller

Landry departs Schumacher, joins Lourdes

Donna Landry has left Schumacher Group to join Our Lady of Lourdes as vice president of corporate development.

"I am pleased to announce that Donna Landry, a well-known and very accomplished health care executive, will be joining the Lourdes leadership team as the vice president of corporate development," hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Bud Barrow wrote in an Aug. 18 email to Lourdes employees. "Donna was most recently the chief administrative officer with The Schumacher Group and brings with her two decades of experience in hospital administration and operations. She has many strengths that will serve our mission well, including extensive skills in strategic planning, leadership training and business development."

Landry spent 19 years at LGMC, having departed at end of December 2006 as chief operating officer to join Schumacher Group. Landry said via email that she left Schumacher for this new opportunity. She is now part of Lourdes' executive leadership team, overseeing strategic planning, business planning, physician recruitment, Lourdes Primary Care Physicians and Lourdes Imaging Network.

Barrow noted that Landry was integral to the success of corporations like Schumacher and LGMC and that she has channeled her talents to assist numerous civic and professional organizations in the local community. "For many years, I have admired Donna through both her work in the health care industry and through her leadership roles in the Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Acadiana," Barrow wrote. "She has earned the admiration and respect of many in this community and her blend of professionalism and work ethic will certainly reflect our Franciscan core values."

Andre Moreau, whose last day at the hospital was Aug. 26, has been with Lourdes for almost 20 years, serving as vice president of corporate development for the past four. He worked closely with different boards/leadership for the hospital and affiliates like Lourdes Imaging Network, its partnership with LHC Home Health, Park Place Surgical Hospital and the Heart Hospital of Lafayette.

Moreau was responsible for business development, physician recruitment, growth and operations of the Primary Care Physician Network, hospital strategic planning and marketing/community relations. He is leaving to head operations for his family's business, according to Lourdes spokeswoman Elisabeth Arnold, who did not identify the company.

Landry exiting Schumacher and Moreau leaving Lourdes were among several high profile departures in recent weeks. Mark Attales, Lafayette General's director of community relations, is no longer with the hospital, and Leslie Davis, an LGMC communications specialist, resigned to stay home with her young children.

"I plan to freelance write, but mainly focus on the advertising collateral/PR/web writing that I did so much of [at the hospital]," Davis said in an email response on Aug. 8, her last day at the hospital. "It was a tough decision, because I love LGMC, but my husband's job was just too busy for us to balance." Davis' husband, Robert, works for a local oilfield service company. - Leslie Turk

Wine award to the Village

Wine Spectator magazine has given Village Café a 2011 Award of Excellence.

Village Café's wine list is under the helm of Wine Director/Sommelier Ben Leger. It has nearly 600 wines to choose from, according to Wine Spectator. The award is based on how extensive a selection a restaurant offers and how it fairs as "a thematic match to the menu in both price and style." In other words, the prices of the entrees offered are expected to be comparable to the prices of wine served as well as complementing the meal.

Restaurants that wish to be considered for an award on any of the three levels (Award of Excellence, Best Award of Excellence and the Grand Award) must meet certain criteria. A current wine list must be submitted in hardcopy along with the dinner menu. A cover letter on restaurant letterhead must detail the inventory, pricing and how the wine is stored along with any other tidbits that the restaurant, wine director or sommelier believes makes the selection stand out. All three tiers of awards are considered exemplary, and the selected restaurants, picked from across North America, are listed on Wine Spectator's website and in its magazine.

Having a wine director like Leger on staff means Village Café has one person whose job is to select and recommend wines for the establishment and to talk to the customers about wine. Leger is at the restaurant to help and educate so that patrons don't waste their time and money on a wine they don't like.

Village Café is located at 1 Degaulle Square in River Ranch.

The only other Lafayette restaurant to make the cut was Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, which also earned an Award of Excellence. Ruth's is located at 620 W. Pinhook Road.  - Anna Purdy