Turk File

Turk File 09.28.2011

Mulate's No More
By Wynce Nolley

Pont Breaux's keeps famous Breaux Bridge Cajun eatery's memory alive.

Mulate's No More
By Wynce Nolley

Pont Breaux's keeps famous Breaux Bridge Cajun eatery's memory alive.

After 31 years in Breaux Bridge, Mulate's Cajun Restaurant is writing a new chapter on the Acadiana restaurant scene. Now under the ownership of longtime manager Jimmy LaGrange and his business partner Randy LeBlanc, the Breaux Bridge institution re-opened simultaneously with its closing - but it's now called Pont Breaux's Cajun Restaurant.

Randy LeBlanc and Jimmy LaGrange, owners of Pont Breaux's

After enjoying immense popularity and success since 1989 under the guidance of the late Goldie Comeaux, her children decided that it was time to move on so they made an offer to the restaurant's general manager of more than 26 years. LaGrange's decision to assume ownership leaves founder Kerry Boutté's Mulate's in New Orleans the exclusive location of the famous Cajun junction.
"The atmosphere will still be the same," assures LaGrange. "I've been working with Ms. Goldie and the family for 23 years. I started off as a busboy dishwasher and then I was assistant manager and I've been the general manager for the last 20 years; the family has been great to me."

LaGrange's business partner and friend, LeBlanc is hardly a stranger to Mulate's rich history. LeBlanc's son Blasien has been playing the Mulate's stage since he was only 6 years old; now 17, he's an accordionist with Nik L Beer, along with other Cajun performers.

"When I was offered the opportunity I took the issue real serious because I believe in the Cajun culture and I believe in the Acadiana area and the Breaux Bridge people," says LeBlanc, who also is president of Tri City Services Inc., a directional drilling company.

Aside from "just keeping the history going," LeBlanc says another major reason he decided to go in with LaGrange on the restaurant was to maintain the jobs the restaurant provides for the local economy.

"I thought that with the economy the way it is today then buying this place and keeping the approximately 35 employees employed was a great idea," he says. "So my idea is to keep people working and to get the local people back over here to enjoy a great time with Cajun style at Pont Breaux's."

Something LeBlanc insisted the new incarnation of the restaurant add is boiled crawfish, along with boiled shrimp, frog legs and other Louisiana seafood. The menu will also now feature fresh steaks, seafood salad, crabmeat au gratin, steak au gratin, grilled tilapia and alligator and several char-broiled items. Plate lunch specials will also be offered Monday through Friday; the plate lunch menu was still being tweaked at press time.

Another aspect of the restaurant that won't change is live Cajun music performed every night of the week.

"I was born and raised Cajun, I love Cajun music, I love Cajun food, I love meeting people, I love to hear the stories of the people from Breaux Bridge," says LeBlanc. "If the dance floors could talk they would go way back, so we want to keep the floor for the future."

Logan Farms on Johnston has new owner

Lance Champagne

Lance Champagne, a UL grad who worked as a manager at Champagne's grocery store in the Oil Center for the past six years, has purchased the Logan Farms Honey-Glazed Hams and Market Café from Lafayette franchisee Greg Nick. The Lafayette Logan Farms store has been in business since 1985.

No changes are planned at the Johnston Street store, which specializes in the retail sale of spiral sliced, honey glazed hams and turkey breasts and other fully cooked specialty meat products. Because of Lance's connection to the family's Oil Center Champagne's - his father is store owner Greg Champagne - Logan Farms' sliced ham is now vacuum packed and sold for $12.99 a pound in the grocer's deli. Plans call for the bone-in hams to be sold at the Lafayette Champagne's during the holiday season. That could help relieve some of the long lines of customers waiting to purchase honey-glazed hams at Logan Farms during the holiday season, when their popularity spikes for family dinners, parties and individual and corporate gift giving.

Logan Farms is also a popular lunch spot. Sandwiches, salads and plate lunches, along with sandwich trays for special events, fuel sales during the off-season. View the Lafayette lunch menu here.

Lance says he'd eventually like to get back into the family grocery store business but for now is spending all of his time learning and developing the new Logan Farms venture. The Champagnes own five grocery stores in Acadiana; only the Lafayette location sells Logan Farms' sliced ham. - Leslie Turk

Armentor Jewelers coming to Parc Lafayette

Mike Armentor

Armentor Jewelers, which carries a range of mid- and high-priced lines in its New Iberia and Abbeville stores, is bringing its seven decades of jewelry experience to Lafayette.

"We do try to have a little something for everyone," says Mike Armentor, who will be managing the Lafayette location in the new Parc Lafayette development on Kaliste Saloom Road at Camellia Boulevard. Thirty five years ago, Mike's father Eric joined the business his father founded in 1939. Eric remains the majority owner.

Mike, who joined the company about 15 years ago, says the family hopes to introduce a new concept in retail jewelry sales with this Parc Lafayette store. "It'll be hip and fun, not so intimidating or stuffy," he says. The 2,500-square-foot store will have a number of TV screens throughout the space, as well as iPads on the counter tops. Some samples of jewelry will also be displayed on the top of counters, rather than in display cases, so customers can walk around in a relaxed atmosphere touching and trying the pieces, Mike says.

The store will also focus on custom pieces, with the iPads and TV screens helping customers understand the custom-design process.

Armentor Jewelers is one of several tenants lining up to join the 1921 Kaliste Saloom Road building, which is 35,960 square feet, according to Lafayette Consolidated Government's records.

It's the first building to be completed in the development. Mike plans to open between mid-October and early November.

Among the stores scheduled to join Armentor are Superior Nails, Imelda's Fine Shoes, Studio M (women's clothing and accessories) and Blanc (a bridal store).

The 16,000-square-foot La Marquise, a women's department store, is under way in the development as well. - Leslie Turk

M&A - Mergers and Acquisitions of local interest

Jones Walker & Watkins Ludlam
Headquartered in New Orleans with offices in Lafayette, the Jones Walker law firm is expanding into Mississippi via a merger with Jackson-based Watkins Ludlam. The combination, approved by the shareholders of Watkins Ludlam and the Jones Walker partnership in August, will be effective by Jan. 1, 2012. The combined firm will have more than 375 attorneys. The transaction adds 67 new attorneys, one government relations specialist, and three Mississippi offices in Jackson, Gulfport, and Olive Branch.
Earlier this summer Jones Walker opened a Lafayette office at 1200 Camellia Blvd. Attorneys Dennis L. Doise, John W. Kolwe and Kyle M. Bacon work out of that River Ranch office. The firm also has on office on Jefferson Street downtown, where approximately 20 attorneys work.
Founded in 1937, Jones Walker is one of the largest law firms in the Gulf South. The Watkins Ludlam firm, which got its start in 1905, serves clients in the corporate, banking, construction, financial services, gaming, government relations, public finance, tax and real estate sectors.
"Many Jones Walker clients have business interests in the Mississippi market and across the Gulf South, and we can service them more efficiently with a larger footprint," said William H. Hines, Jones Walker managing partner.
The law firm will continue under the name of Jones Walker. After the merger is completed, Jones Walker will have 15 offices in six states and the District of Columbia. - Leslie Turk

Cumulus & Citadel
Cumulus Media confirmed in February that it was negotiating with Las Vegas-based Citadel Broadcasting Corp., owner of local radio stations 94.5 KSMB, 99.1 KXKC, 104.7 KNEK and 95.5 KRRQ, to acquire Citadel in a deal valued at about $2.4 billion in cash and stock. On Sept. 16 the publicly traded media giant announced that it had closed the deal. With the completion of the Citadel acquisition, Cumulus says it is the largest pure-play radio broadcaster in the U.S., with more than 570 radio stations in 120 markets and a nationwide radio network serving more than 4,000 stations. Atlanta-based Cumulus expects to pay approximately $1.4 billion in cash and issue approximately 26 million shares of its Class A stock and warrants to purchase 71.7 million shares more to Citadel shareholders. Radio Inc. reported that the Cumulus-Citadel merger marks the end of a tumultuous few years for Citadel that began with its purchase of 22 ABC Radio stations and ABC Radio Networks in 2006. By 2008, a tumbling stock price led to warnings from the New York Stock Exchange and de-listing in March 2009, the magazine noted. Citadel filed for Chapter 11 at the end of 2009, and after reorganization was forced to rescind stock grants to top executives and replace the grants with options after a private equity shareholder filed suit, according to Radio Inc. Cumulus began pursuing Citadel last year but its offers were twice rejected by the Citadel board. In February, Cumulus decided to made the negotiations public. - LT

MidSouth Bank President Rusty Cloutier, right, with First Louisiana's James Fontenot, center, and Randy P. Angelle

MidSouth Bank & First La. National
MidSouth Bank isn't stopping in its active role in the region's acquisition fever, as evidenced by the Aug. 30 announcement that the bank will purchase First Louisiana National Bank, headquartered in Breaux Bridge.

According to a release from MidSouth, the purchase agreement calls for an $11.5 million cash payment and 725,000 shares of MidSouth's common stock to close the deal, which will add roughly $115 million in assets to MidSouth's portfolio.

"First Louisiana National Bank is a healthy bank with a strong consumer market franchise," MidSouth Bank President and CEO Rusty Cloutier says in the release. "We are confident there are tremendous opportunities to increase lending in St. Martin Parish, by leveraging access to MidSouth's additional products and services, supported by a more technologically advanced banking platform and a much larger network of retail banking centers and ATMs."

First La. National's Lafayette location will close and merge with a nearby MidSouth branch on Moss Street. The MidSouth operations center in Breaux Bridge at 728 Berard St. will expand once the acquisition is final, but MidSouth's Breaux Bridge banking operations will move from its Berard Street location to First La. National's Mills Avenue branch. First Louisiana National in St. Martinville will remain open after the purchase.

Although MidSouth is headquartered in Lafayette, the regional financial institution is no stranger to the Breaux Bridge/St. Martin market. Cloutier points out that MidSouth's purchase of Breaux Bridge Bank and Trust in 1987 helped pave the way for the bank's expansion from a $28 million bank almost 25 years ago to a bank with $1.2 billion in assets as of July 31. - Heather Miller

What's Up With Lafayette's Economy?
ABiz brings noted economist Loren Scott back to Lafayette

As virtually all economic indicators are pointing toward stability for Acadiana in the fourth quarter of 2011, ABiz presents the 2011 Entrée to Business Luncheon with Dr. Loren Scott, who will unveil his annual Louisiana Economic Outlook and share his prognostications for Lafayette and the region over the next two years.

Presented exclusively in Acadiana at the annual ABiz Entrée to Business Luncheon, Scott's LEO model analysis and projections provide local business leaders with valuable information as they adopt budgets and strategies for the upcoming years. The luncheon is sponsored by MidSouth Bank and Dwight Andrus Insurance, with support from the Acadiana Economic Development Council, and is slated for Friday, Oct. 7, at noon at the Cajundome Convention Center. Each luncheon attendee will receive a CD of Scott's full LEO report as well as his Acadiana-specific PowerPoint presentation, produced by Vidox Motion Imagery.

Widely considered to be the top resource in the state on economic matters, Scott built his career at LSU, where he is now professor emeritus of economics. Known for interpreting complex data into useful, accessible numbers, he is co-developer of the Louisiana econometric model, used for providing annual forecasts of the Louisiana economy.

Individual tickets are $50 per person or $450 for a reserved table of eight. For information or to order tickets, contact Robin Hebert via email at [email protected] or by phone: (337) 769-8603.

Saints' Payton new face of Whitney/Hancock

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has joined the Whitney/Hancock banking team as an official spokesman and representative, the banks announced Tuesday. Payton previously was the pitchman for New Orleans-based First Bank and Trust, a role he'd played since 2008.

In 2010, Payton coached the Saints to a 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts for the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl win.

Payton will make public appearances on behalf of Whitney and Hancock, a banking group that also operates in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and he will be featured in television, radio, print and online advertisements. Payton will tout the banks' products and services, and customers and communities across the Gulf South will see promotional items bearing the coach's likeness.

Whitney is already the official bank of the New Orleans Saints, with both Whitney and Hancock offering official Saints-branded debit cards.

"In New Orleans, and across the Gulf Coast, we know Saints fans bleed black and gold. They are committed to their team the same way we're committed to this region," said Whitney Bank President Joe Exnicios in announcing the partnership. "We're very happy to welcome Coach Payton to our organization, two century-old banks built on strength, stability, exceptional service, and a full array of financial solutions that set us apart from the competition."

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed. - Leslie Turk