Although the pandemic is a challenging time for the service industry, one Ponchatoula family is seizing an opportunity to expand the family business and their plans are quickly moving.
Suzette Callais and Callie Hines, the mother-and-daughter ownership duo of the Stowaway Coffeehouse, have announced they have bought the restaurant and convenience store combo property on West Pine Street that was formerly Bootsy’s and recently Smay’s.
“This was a decision we felt strongly about even though it was a quick one,” Hines said. “We made a purchasing pitch to Ed Hoover, the property owner, and he loved our vision. He thinks we are going to do what Ponchatoula needs.”
Hines said her family will re-open the restaurant and gas station as a South Louisiana-focused eatery that places an emphasis on fresh food made with fresh ingredients.
The business will be re-named “Pappy’s Stowaway Cafe,” in honor of Hines’ grandfather, a commercial fisherman who lived near the coast of South Louisiana.
The menu will be based on the food she remembers her grandfather making and all other classic dishes that represent the cultural heritage of South Louisiana, she said.
“We’re going to have fresh Louisiana seafood, po-boys made with Leidenheimer bread, homemade burgers, gumbo and some innovative dishes we might come up with along the way,” Hines said.
Her wish for the restaurant to have a fun spirit is one reason the menu will feature a monstrous 18-inch debris roast beef po-boy as a challenge contest for foodies brave enough to expand their bellies.
The family said they see the space as one that could potentially bring their business versatility.
Having the property and facilities on West Pine will also give them an opportunity to expand their options at their Stowaway Coffeehouse on North West Railroad Avenue.
“I’m sure people will ask if we’re keeping the coffeehouse, and we definitely are because we see it as a different kind of business,” Hines said.
“The coffeehouse is small so we don’t have the room to make fresh food or be a roastery,” she said, “but with this property here we can make muffins, biscuits, and other things you expect at a coffee shop and transport it over.
“We also eventually have plans to roast our own coffee, and we can do that in the space here,” she added.
The convenience store on West Pine will always sell gas and the basics, she said, but they hope the store can shift to become a specialty shop.
“What we want to do here, in time, is become a one-stop-shop for boiled seafood,” she said. “You’ll be able to buy your oysters, shrimp, crawfish, and things like that plus the pots, seasonings, paddles, and whatever else you may need.
“Or in time, it can shift into a Cajun meat market. We want to stay true to local identity and serve fresh options at a reasonable price,” she said.
About 15 of her family members will serve as restaurant and store employees, she said, and the kitchen staff is coming over from the former Rosaryville Catholic retreat where her mother served as a director.
Head chef will be Adam Ancalade who worked at Rosaryville.
“Adam is from Buras where my family lived before Katrina and we grew up together,” she said. “He got his culinary degree from Nicholls State and is an amazing chef.”
Rebranding and slight renovation is underway at the former Smay’s property. Hines expects to open the restaurant and gas station as Pappy’s as soon as Feb. 14.
The business will open in phases with the store opening first, she said. They will then allow some time to fine tune some recipes.
Phase 2 will be a full opening of the restaurant and in phase 3 they will serve boiled seafood on the grounds.