Business Person of the Month: Gabby Loubiere of Brew Haha!


Brew Ha-Ha!

711 Jefferson Highway

Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Brew Ha-Ha! has been a part of the mid city landscape for nearly thirteen years. Its signature cake balls, which come in a wide variety of flavors and cause cravings all over Baton Rouge, are the result of owner Gabby Loubiere’s ability to turn unfortunate business circumstances to true successes. Brew Ha-Ha once had a second location. “While we had that store, we did lunches over there, because it was not going to make it as a coffee shop. Then on the weekends we would bring the extra cake balls to this store, to Jefferson. It started to create this hype: on Thursdays or so, sometimes Wednesdays, people would start calling to see how many cake balls we were bringing here. It was just this crazy little phenomenon that would happen.” Loubiere’s business was one of the first to sell cake balls, and the original recipes started with Loubiere’s grandmother, who won

The cake ball case and coffee counter.

countless culinary competitions for her pralines and other candies. They have changed and expanded as Brew Ha-Ha! has grown, and are still the best in town. “I guess it’s my grandmother’s candy-making skills that are still pumping through me.”

In addition to a variety of seasonal decorated options, Loubiere designs and makes cake ball wedding cakes. An invention of the peak of the cake ball craze, they started for Brew Ha-Ha! when a friend of Loubiere’s approached her about making one for the friend’s wedding. They’re made out of sculpted styrofoam, covered first in tulle and then in cake balls on skewers. “People who are traditional don’t necessarily love it;” nevertheless, it has become one of the creations in which Loubiere takes the most pride: “There’s a lot of pressure that goes into a wedding cake that somebody’s – hopefully their favorite day ever, other than the day they have children, so it’s nerve-wracking and stressful. But every time I set one up I cry a little at the end that I get to even be a part of that. They’re absolutely stunning.”

Loubiere had no prior experience in coffee shop management, and had not even worked in one before. “I just went to them when I was in college. I went to Southeastern and LSU, but mainly when I was at LSU, Highland Coffees was how I got through my shifts at The Chimes, and how I made it through college. So I knew I loved coffee, but I really didn’t know anything about it.” A friend approached her about opening a coffee shop in an available storefront in the shopping center where Brew Ha-Ha! still lives, but backed out at the last minute. “I decided to go ahead with it; I had her blessing…So I went at it solo. I knew nothing. I hired a cluster of girls that worked at a CCs, [and] I just kind of learned as I needed to.”

The coffee shop was originally set up because owner of shopping center really wanted a coffee shop to replace Perks, formerly across the street, which left mid city sadly caffeine-free when it closed. “It was scary in the beginning, because there was no one – there were a few other tenants in this shopping center, but there were just no people. You almost expected to see tumbleweeds going through the parking lot. Right away I joined the Mid City Merchants, a panel of probably about forty or so merchants then.” There are now nearly 150. “We’ve kept this very ‘this is my roots’ vibe in the neighborhood. People that live in this area are very passionate about this area. They’re super excited about the changes, sometimes adamantly so – I sit on the fence of, 80% of me usually sides with the homeowners, because I get it; I love that we have this love, family, curb appeal thing that happens. Growth is beautiful too, and I love that so many merchants want to be in mid city now. But we have to keep the culture alive that was here, and that was family and heart. It feels so good in this part of town, and I want to build it and build it and build it, but build it in a way that the feeling stays the same. I think that’s attainable, because there’s so much passion here.”

Owner Gabby Loubiere sitting in part of Brew Haha!’s new expansion.

A recent expansion has already boosted sales, especially of lunch items. “People flow,” Loubiere says. “When you move things around, you realize quickly if the flow is there.” Though Brew Ha-Ha! has served breakfast, brunch, and lunch for the last several years, the menu was recently posted publically for the first time, because of the owner’s new confidence in their capacity. “Before, we kind of did it as an added bonus to people who came here already, but we didn’t market it too much, mainly because our kitchen area was so small and we were trying to keep up with the cake balls. Now we have a lot of space, so we’re putting it out there that we do this. It’s a simple menu, we have nothing over eight dollars.” A roaster, part of the reason for the build-out and a long-time goal of Loubiere’s, is next. She is full of ideas on how best to display it – “We may even quarantine it off with bulk bean bins with roasted beans, where people could maybe come in and scoop by the pound.” Blends from Brew Ha-Ha! Roasting Company may include light, dark, decaf, flavors, and even holiday specials: “Gabby Lou’s Brew,” for one. Gabby Loubiere herself is already looking several years down the line, which will hopefully include pre-bagged distribution into local restaurants and marekts; she has so many ideas for potential growth that watching her develop them in real time is inspirational.

Mid city is increasingly known for its seasonal neighborhood arts festivals: Art Thaw in February; Hot Art, Cool Night in May; A Mid City Night’s Dream in August; and White Light Night in November. “The fall one and the spring one are just unbelievable. Back in the day, I would fret for weeks preparing for those events,” but Brew Ha-Ha!’s success has allowed Loubiere to relax a little and let the artists come to her. “I get approached by artists from Lafayette, New Orleans, Hammond, and God bless them – they have huge arts markets there. I really, really stick to local, local artists. Preferably, I’d like them to live in walking distance. But if not, in Baton Rouge.” Since the event is free and open to the public, it used to be much less productive for artists, and expensive for the businesses using free refreshments to entice customers. However, the rising popularity has allowed them to cut back a little on free treats, so sales for everyone have gone up, solidifying the event’s place in the local art and business communities. “We have probably 60 to 70 merchants that participate, all of which have anywhere from 2-10 artists. It’s really unbelievable some of the talent that we see. And the prices are amazing, because these are people that are up and coming or they haven’t achieved this super-celebrity-ism as an artist, so they keep their prices affordable,” Loubiere says. “The whole art atmosphere here is probably one of the best things that we have going on. And people flock from everywhere.”

Being a small business owner is not always easy, but Loubiere has great advice for potential entrepreneurs. “First of all, you have to be completely passionate about what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to do it for the purpose of acknowledgment or getting rich, just go get a job. A lot of people I see get into business, self-employment, because they think it’s limelight and luxury. You have to live it, you have to love it, you have to respect it. You have to be present with your employees,” she says. “That’s just the world we live in. If you’re not 100% invested into what you’re trying to put out there, it’s going to show completely through. And you have to know your market – what do people want? What do people need? How are you going to communicate? It is so easy nowadays with social media to get your opinions out there. We have these overnight food bloggers that just yesterday were regular people, and now they’re Food Bloggers. You really have to pay attention to everything that you’re doing, because you’re on display. So I think the main thing people have to focus on is, it’s not that easy, be passionate, and remember that people are only going to support you if they dig you, and they’re watching everything you do.”

The most important thing is to “learn from [your] mistakes: try it, and if it doesn’t work, get out of it. Yes, there are tremendous perks to being self-employed. But they definitely are outweighed by the stresses and the responsibility. Where’s your heart at? Why are you doing this? If you love it, and you feel good about it, you have to be prepared to fail. And then, let’s go! Go for it! What have you got to lose?”

Stop by Brew Ha-Ha! for coffee, a cake ball, and a peruse of their Little Libraries today.

Business Person of the Month: Brad Jensen of Bricks and Bombs

Taken from owner’s website with permission.

Bricks and Bombs

449 Hearthstone Drive

Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Brad Jensen developed his first T-shirt brand, Icon, at eighteen, while studying graphic design at LSU. Bricks and Bombs is the culmination of decades of artistic development, business savvy, and a good bit of luck.

It begins with the name – or, not quite, but the name is fantastic, so we’ll start there. “The short story,” Jensen laughed, “it’s from some misinterpreted Clash lyrics.” He carried them around for years until the opportunity to use them struck. “It became a little bit more of an analogy for what I wanted to do with the store and the gallery space initially, and that was, the bricks being a symbol of a building block, something to support a wall, or in my case what I was hoping to build was a community of artists and creatives. And then bombs, of course, being a symbol of destruction, and that juxtaposition of building a community and destroying some ideas of what people thought art is.”

The store opened in 2009, but Jensen’s work on Icon and on other artistic and screenprinting projects is at least ten years older. “I got a job at a screen printing shop and learned how to print my own shirts, and then learned how to print stickers, and learned how to print posters, and then I started incorporating Icon into my fine art,” he said. “I went around to a lot of bike races, I rode BMX, growing up, so it was kind of like a bike-rider thing, and then it sort of evolved into my artwork, and still clothing, and posters and stickers and hats and other things too; it kind of became a brand.”

He was working across the street in a studio in the back of a friend’s shop, what is now a Crossfit gym, when he saw Bricks and Bombs’ current location open up. At first, it seemed like a great office space, somewhere to work outside of his home; the front was, if nothing else, great storage, and a place where people could find his shirts more easily. It was very minimalist, just plain white walls and a T-shirt rack. “It was meant to be store by day, gallery by night, and there wasn’t a lot that had to happen to make it transform into that space,” Jensen said. Bricks and Bombs recently hosted a traveling poster show, and has highlighted skateboard deck art, tattoo and graffiti artists, photography, sculpture, and the senior shows of graduating LSU students. The shows are something he wants to get back to this year: “The more events that we have in between those that are already established,” he said, referring to White Light Night, the Ogden Park Prowl, and other annual MidCity events, “the more we can make this a destination place – make people realize that MidCity is something more than just those bookended events.”

The neighborhood, like so much of Baton Rouge, is slowly changing for the better. “When I first moved in over here, it wasn’t quite like it is now. It’s been an evolving thing. But it showed a lot of promise,” said Jensen. “Someone told me once that Baton Rouge is the kind of place where you’ve got to get in, stake your claim, and ride it out. And I’ve been riding it out for seven years now, and that’s a positive thing for sure. I’ve definitely seen Saturdays becoming more and more of a day when you can rely on people walking in, when before it was kind of hit or miss. There were a lot of Saturdays when I wasn’t open because I wanted to be doing something else, when no one was walking in. It’s getting there.”

Jensen’s growth as a business person was very organic, based as it is on ideas he’s worked on since he was eighteen years old. “It was an opportunity that I saw. When I first opened up, I thought I’d just try it for a year. I wasn’t risking a lot, other than a year’s worth of rent, because … I had a product, I had a service that was already in place, so this just kind of became a more permanent fixture for all those things that opened up some opportunities.”

But if you’re just starting out, his advice would be to “Do your research, for sure. Think about what it is that you can offer the area. I think that’s the biggest struggle with an artist and a business, or any business, is that you have an idea of what you want to do – and I’m guilty of this for sure, I didn’t start my business thinking, oh, Baton Rouge really needs another T-shirt shop! That was what I was interested in doing. I can understand the challenges now, and I still kind of grapple with it, with what does the area around me need, versus what I want it to be, versus what will it support?”

“I do everything myself. Everything in here, I’ve designed it, I printed it, I folded it, I orchestrated it all,” he said. “I think the attitude that’s over here is a little bit different from everywhere else. People come in here and they know that you can’t find this kind of stuff everywhere else, especially not locally made or locally designed. I think what I’m offering is an opportunity to get involved with the shop – I’m doing some artist series shirts, and I do other events with artists in here. I have kind of an open door policy; I’m not very discriminatory like some of the other galleries. They operate differently than I do. I can be a little less conscientious of bringing someone in, take a risk of having their artwork hanging up in here.”

Really, for Jensen, it’s still about that contrast between bricks and bombs – breaking something down so you can build something better. “I’ve done some nontraditional things. When you hang a skateboard with some cool graphics up on a white wall, it kind of takes on a new meaning – it’s all of the sudden this utilitarian device that people view in a different light. They see the art for what it is, not just a piece of wood with wheels on it. That’s what I was seeking to show people, especially in Baton Rouge – if they didn’t grow up in a subculture, like BMX or skating, to enlighten them to some other aspects of culture that they may not be aware of,” he said.

“It’s all very interwoven, being a graphic designer. I don’t see it just as design, I see it as just as much of a fine art too. I guess when you take that graphic design and you screenprint it, put it on a poster, limit it and put a number and a signature at the bottom, it becomes not just a graphic design piece, it’s an art piece” – or wearable art, like a T-shirt; or mobile art, like a skateboard.

Like Jensen said about the library, in Bricks and Bombs and the rest of the midcity area, “A lot of people don’t realize how many great resources are tucked away.” Stop by and check it out.

Business Person of the Month: Andrea Eastin of Fair Fit Studios

Fair Fit Studios

401 Longwood Court, Unit C

Baton Rouge, LA 70806

The range of group classes, private lessons, video tutorials, and online articles that is Fair Fit Studio was born in Andrea Eastin’s midcity home four years ago, but Eastin herself has been part of the handmade fashion world for much longer. After achieving a bachelor’s degree in Painting and Drawing from the University of Iowa and attending workshops in dye and surface design at the Penland School of Craft, Eastin attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a Master of Fiber and Material Studies degree. There, she also taught a beginner-to-advanced curriculum of four classes in sewing, with an emphasis on clothing construction and fashion. She set up a fashion line in New Orleans until the disaster of Hurricane Katrina forced her and so many others out of the city, but later moved back to complete what felt like unfinished business. “I came back to New Orleans and I got really involved with the fashion scene there that was growing because of the post-Katrina influx of new people and new initiatives,” Eastin said.

Fair Fit Studios class space and workroom.

Though fashion and clothing design remained (and continue to be) one of Eastin’s passions, it was difficult to meet the production demands of clothing stores that were interested in carrying her lines. “I knew I was in a model that I did not have the resources or the capacity to make successful from where I was,” she said. “I had to just totally start over. Sometimes being able to totally start over can bring something really amazing into your life, because you’re not repeating something you know how to do.” A marriage (to local hairdresser and creative director Paul Eastin), a move to Baton Rouge, and a “stop-doing” year to give herself a chance to recharge were just what was needed to let the idea of Fair Fit Studios percolate. The move especially helped to shape the business: Where New Orleans is known for its grandiose celebrations and regular festivals, all of which require a different custom-made costume or gown and each of which places severe constraints on the natural ebb and flow of clientele, Eastin found that “here people are really looking for ways that they can grow their children’s interests. With the private lessons for teenagers and children that I do, that’s often parents that know their child loves fashion, or wants to know how to sew, and they don’t have anybody that can teach them. And so the parents really try to figure out how this can be their kid’s thing.” Private lessons may be anything from a young child designing and sewing her own Christmas dress with Eastin’s careful supervision, to a teenager building a portfolio to apply to advanced courses of study with the benefit of Eastin’s vast technical skill.

The name “Fair Fit” comes from Eastin’s academic background and personal philosophy towards fashion and clothing design – it was originally the title of her thesis at the Art Institute. In this case, “fair” means both “adequate” and “just,” and plays off rising concerns about where clothing is made and how it is paid for. “It was a form of grading, meaning sizing, that I created so that it had some play – could be customized. I named it off of my clothing line because I think it’s more fair to teach a person the skills … it’s more fair if you have the autonomy to be able to make it yourself and to make your own decisions, it’s more democratic that way, than having to find somebody to do it for you, or having to rely on what already exists to make the choice for you. It’s not fair that we don’t have these skills anymore,” she said. The Fair Fit dress and pattern will soon be available online, and Eastin will teach classes on her sizing system.

The Fair Fit pattern pieces.
The Fair Fit pattern pieces. The pattern is designed so that each piece can be swapped out for one of a different size, creating an individualized fit.
The Fair Fit dress.
The Fair Fit dress.








Many of the emails Fair Fit Studios receives are centered around the problem of fit and how rarely something off-the-rack is a perfect match, either physically or aesthetically. “The hard thing is, you have a unique perspective, and they’re not trying to appeal to that. So then you can either do it yourself, or you can pay someone to do it for you, which, I don’t know if you really want to go down that route,” Eastin laughed. “There’s no way to make a dress that makes everybody happy. But there’s a reason why they don’t fit right: because it costs too much money for them to fit right.” Even professional sewers struggle with learning how to design and construct clothing in a way that excites their client base, and as Eastin said, that’s because “if I go about making the way you want it for your body, you’re still going to be unhappy, because it’s not your perspective, it’s still my perspective. So if you just teach people the skill, that’s the closest to fair in fashion that I have gotten.”

Even creatively focused small businesses need growth, and to accomplish this, Fair Fit recently began offering online classes in beginners sewing and basic patterns. Eastin also dedicates more time to the blog, writing a combination of articles on everything from upcoming in-person classes to the how-tos of pattern piecing to philosophy of design. “I like to feel like I’m enterprising, just always thinking of how can we offer more. But I’m still one person,” she said. Eastin is thus committed to steady, reliable growth of 17% per quarter (a number derived based on the advice of a business coach). “It’s more about what’s that one next achievable step that’s towards growth,” she said, than about doubling profit or output as quickly as possible – sustainability in the long term over more dramatic results more quickly. “Same as with sewing, creating a business is not really that different from creating an art project. It has a circuitry. It has a series of steps. It has a way that it reaches other people, and there is an exchange. You shouldn’t go, ‘oh! But the money isn’t important to me.’ Of course it is, right? But you just make sure you’re not trying to put expectations on it that are the same as what a marketing business would grow, or a tire business.”

For aspiring entrepreneurs, the library can be an invaluable resource – Eastin has used everything from online audiobooks to listen to while she works on sewing projects, to spaces outside of her home that make it easier to concentrate on business writing, to advertising upcoming classes, to classic sewing instruction books for deeper research. “I really believe that a lot of the great references are there. A lot of people believe that you should really learn sewing on YouTube these days, but there’s such good information in the classics. Those books from the 50s, 60s, and 70s are amazing. That’s how I learned,” she said. (The fashion conscious can also use online resources like Women’s Wear Daily and the Vogue Archives to check out styles of the day as far back as the 1800s.)

Join the Fair Fit Studios emailing list to learn about upcoming classes, both in-house and online, and for more information about every aspect of fashion design. You can also follow Fair Fit’s Facebook page.

Business Person of the Month: Katie Culotta Shoriak of Victoria’s Toy Station

Victoria’s Toy Station

5466 Government St.

Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Victoria’s Toy Station has been a beloved part of Baton Rouge retail for over thirty years. The store fits an incredible amount of merchandise into a relatively small space. Shelves go from the hardwood floors to the ceiling, and each room has at least one additional display in the center or tucked in the space between the end of a shelf and a corner. Each room has a theme, ranging from costumes to art supplies to seasonal displays. “We have a boy’s room, ages 6-12, and then we have a girl’s room, and then we have our doll room, toddler, baby, art, so everything is done by division. Like, the bathtub room, and things like that. It’s fun, and one of the pluses of being in this house is we can do it that way,” says owner Katie Culotta Shoriak.

“My mom opened the store in 1984 and I started running it about ten years ago,” she says. “I was four when she did it. She just saw that there was a niche or need for specialty toys and gifts for kids. She actually opened in Catfish Town, which is downtown, and that’s where the name of Victoria came in, because we were in a train station. So Victoria, from Paddington Bear.”

They were only there for eighteen months before the entire development was closed, but the transition to their current location in the heart of Baton Rouge’s rapidly expanding midcity neighborhoods was an easy one. “We’ve lived in the neighborhood all of our lives, so. My parents bought this house, and we actually own the house behind us too. We love being in the neighborhood, and we’re a destination. People come to us rather than being in a strip center or at the mall or whatever,” Shoriak says.

It’s definitely a family business: “My mom always tested things on me, and I went to market with her. It’s kind of like now become one of my children. I have two, who I do the same things with.”

It hasn’t always been easy to live and work right off one of the city’s major thoroughfares. “We have been here when people were scared to come to this area, and we’ve ridden it out, and we love this area. We would never go anywhere else,” says Shoriak. “We love Government Street, we always have. It’s the corridor to downtown. 55,000 cars pass in front of the store every day. Midcity has always been home to myself, to my family, but we are so fired up about all the new restaurants and new things that are coming this way. Traffic in Baton Rouge is a nightmare, and so if I can stay in my bubble, and everyone else can too, it’s gonna be so much better.”

As with any independent company, the biggest competition is big box stores. The only way to compete is with unique products and excellent customer service – two areas in which Victoria’s Toy Station excels. “I’m constantly reading toy magazines and looking to see what the newest latest and greatest is. We go to Toy Fair in February, which is when all the toys are debuted. We also go to gift shows, because that’s what sets us apart. You can come here and get something for a newborn baby, or a nineteen year old girl, or moms get stuff for themselves too,” Shoriak says. (This interview was, incidentally, a great excuse to do a little Christmas shopping.)

“I think that the big box stores definitely cause issues with us with pricing, we’re very aware of that, we try to stay on top of those things, but something that WalMart buys 15000 of and I only buy twelve of, you know, of course they’re going to get a better price. I try to stay away from those things, but those are things that people want, and people may come here to stay out of the big box stores and may pay a little more to get that experience. And you get the free wrapping, and you get customer service, I mean, I have girls walking around all day long asking if you need help. When have you ever been in WalMart and that happened?”

Living in the age of Amazon, of course, is another difficulty. “We had a website for about a month, and we could not keep up with the inventory demand. We would sell out of it in the store, and people would want it on the website, and it was just too much. So we do stuff on Facebook and Instagram, and we ship all over the country, especially at Easter time. Easter time we have Easter baskets that are fabulous, and we ship them all over. It’s insane. It’s fun,” Shoriak says. Orders can be made over the phone, and the store is certainly proactive at reaching out to customers on their social media accounts.

Christmas and Easter are peak seasons in the toy industry, especially because the store offers free gift wrapping, a service that has gotten so popular it was part of a 1200-square-foot expansion about four years ago. “It’s pretty magical, especially right now. Children come in and their eyes light up, and for parents, to find that toy that excites them and is going to be the wow of Christmas morning is pretty amazing. It’s crazy, but it’s fun.”

One of several Christmas displays up now.

Full disclosure – the library does buy some of its decorations from Victoria’s Toy Station, because the merchandise is just so cool, but Shoriak and her family use our resources as well. “My little girl, we go there a lot for story time, my little boy, we go to the Music Together classes, and I actually chaired the Mercy auction there, and we’re excited to use it again,” says Shoriak. She’ll also keep an eye out at toy fairs for items she thinks the library might be able to use.

So what’s the best way to be a part of the community and to help encourage Baton Rouge towards positive change? “I think people just need to remember to shop local,” Shoriak says. “It would be a tragedy to ride around town and there’s no local stores, no Mom and Pop business. I know it’s easy to shop on the internet and stuff, but shopping local is very important to our economy and it’s very important to the workforce, so people need to remember that shopping local is essential.”

And we agree. So for those of you who might be running up against that Christmas deadline, think of Victoria’s Toy Station – for your kids, or just for fun.

Business Person of the Month: Phi Thuy Nguyen of Agame Yoga

Agame Yoga & Meditation Center, LLC

635 S. Acadian Thruway

Baton Rouge, LA   70806

Phi Thuy Nguyen

Founder and Owner, ERYT 500.

Yoga Nidra Facilitator & Trainer, Meditation Teacher.

Destination Method & Professional Coach.

Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant, Professional Speaker.

Retreat Leader, Life Balance Expert.

Ambassadors of Light, Inc. 501 ©(3)

Phi Thuy Nguyen

 Founder – Owner – Instructor – Board of Directors
P:  (225) 636-1891


Phi Thuy Nguyen is a free spirit at heart who now enjoys and appreciates grounding and structure, enabling her to experience her lightness of being within the details of her life.

In 2008, Phi founded Agame Yoga & Meditation Center.  The studio is located at 635 S. Acadian Thruway.  As of June 1, 2016, ownership passed to a non-profit organization she founded, Ambassadors of Light, a 501(c)(3) for purpose organization.

Phi leads yoga classes and workshops and conducts yoga and yoga nidra teacher training at the studio.  She works with clients privately, engages in professional speaking, and creates online training content.  She is deeply inspired to guide others to innovate their minds and life beyond conditioned, limiting beliefs and habits to create a life that is unique and authentic to each individual.  She wants each person who comes to the center to experience their own “different kind of happy”.

“Yoga is a practice to experience a different kind of happy, practicing yoga cultivates an inner state of happiness not conditioned by the external happenings of life.  This is the true power of yoga and meditation.  Our inner well being is really available all the time when we know how to reconnect to it,”  Phi explains.

When asked how people may reach their “different kind of happy”, Phi says, “I would tell people to begin caring how they feel.  If we simply pay attention to how we feel and care to feel good in our bodies, in our minds, and in our lives; this awareness will guide us to making the choices that support the good feelings.

“We are so caught up in bus-i-ness, stress, and worries, that we don’t pay attention.  We all want to feel good and ‘to be happy’, but because we are so busy, we do not make this a priority.   We need to pay attention to how we feel and care about how we feel.  We will be guided to the choices, actions, and relationships that support our happiness.

“When you decide, ‘I want to care about how I feel, and I want to feel good’; then you shift your thoughts to the positive and come back to being who you are meant to be.  Caring how you feel will guide you to make the changes that support good feelings.”

Phi believes in staying connected to one’s inner source and being guided to the next step.  She says, “My overall intention was to heal myself and help others experience their own healing.”  She has received so many gifts and transformations on her path and the journey continues to reveal itself.  For her, each step has been revealed as she was ready.  She says one just needs to be willing.

When asked about her personal yoga journey, Phi explains, “I have done yoga on and off a long time ago but I approached it as a point of exercise and could not stay motivated.  I began my journey of meditation, growth and spiritual connection in 1998 after the birth of my 2nd child.  I was the Small Business Banker as well as the Assistant Branch Manager for a bank. I loved the connection with people and the opportunities to help them.  When I had my 2nd child, I quit my corporate career and became a stay at home mom.  I did this for myself; I wanted to look for sustainable happiness.   I knew something was off even though we had a house, cars, and all the material possessions.  We had the outward abundance my parents had taken the risk of escaping Vietnam and coming to America to give us.  Inside, I felt there was still something missing.

“This was when I started my conscious journey, a conscious journey to finding a fulfilling happiness different from the pursuit of things.  I realized I had been conditioned to believe happiness was the accumulation of more and more things.  This journey brought me to my meditation teacher, Venerable Aggasami.  I came back to the practice of yoga as part of my care during my 3rd pregnancy.  This was when I realized yoga was actually meditation in motion, and how beneficial it was emotionally and physically.  I felt so good during this pregnancy and recovered from my birthing experience so quickly; – I dropped down to my pre-pregnancy weight in one month – I was so impressed by the results, I decided to become certified to teach yoga in 2003 when my daughter was born,” Phi says.

After becoming certified to teach, Phi taught yoga all over Baton Rouge.  She taught at several YMCA’s, BRCC, LSU leisure classes, then at the Women’s Wellness Center.  “I was teaching about 20 classes a week. Teaching at all these locations was too much; I needed to focus and deepen my own practice.  So when we had a chance to build our home, I decided to build a home studio so I could focus more.  Then I opened a studio with a partner in 2006 at Towne Center.  After leaving there, I went to Florida to further my studies with Yogi Amrit Desai.  I reopened my home studio in 2008, and moved to the South Acadian location in August in 2010.”

At the Agame Yoga and Meditation Center, Phi and other instructors taught classes and held retreats there.  In 2016, she gave the business to a 501(c)(3) for purpose non-profit organization she founded, Ambassadors of Light.  She tells us, “My vision for Ambassadors of Light is to bring yoga and meditation and other integrative healing practices to children, battered women/single moms, to our veterans and to our aging population.”

Phi explains the purpose behind Ambassadors of Light, “We are all Ambassadors of the Divine Light that shines within each of us, and we invite you to shine your light and support us as Louisiana’s only 501(c)(3) for purpose and only full open contribution yoga studio! That means we want to support you in whatever way we can so you can touch your inner light and shine it forth to the world. We want to serve our underprivileged communities and bring some light where there may be difficulties and darkness. This is a community-wide effort, from the studio, from the teachers, and from our members and supporters.

“The goal is to make yoga and meditation accessible to all regardless of money.  That is why the studio is a full open contribution studio.  This makes us the only 501(c)(3) for purpose and full open contribution studio in Louisiana.

“I do not own the center as of June 1, 2016, Ambassadors of Light (AOL) does.  The Board of Directors run it; I am one of five volunteer board members.  The board is currently raising money to bring yoga and mindfulness to the children of Polk and FLAIM elementary schools this fall as well as partner with HYPE (Helping Youths Prepare for Excellence), a First United Methodist Church after-school program supporting the children of Bernard Terrace.  We also want to hire an executive director to further our efforts in reaching out to more schools, support battered women and single moms and give back to our veterans and aging populations.  The executive director will be the only paid person.  I will continue my private coaching and consultation, lead workshops and trainings, conduct retreats, create online content and serve on the AOL board.

“I want to help people connect to the feel good place that is within them.  That is why we founded the nonprofit, to make services available to others who cannot afford them.  The name Ambassadors of Light empowers each of us to be one another’s ambassador, to support each other on the journey.  The Light is the state of happiness and peace that is within us.  The studio offers full service open contribution classes, so people can come to enjoy yoga and not let money be a factor.”

When asked what advice she would give to others on starting a business, Phi says   “Do what you Love.  Be among empowered people who are living their authentic lives and living their lives as they want to be and not what they were conditioned to be.  The ‘thing’ is not what is important; it is the why that nurtures and sustains us.”

She advises everyone to “Know your why.”  She says, “Why do you want to go into business.  Let it be connected to your inner purpose; this will help you with the challenges you face and you will be able to move through the challenges more easily.

“I come from a place of healing and service, this is my why; it is to give back in a way that is empowering to people.  This is an expression of gratitude for the people who sponsored us all those 30+ years ago.  Through the Kindness of strangers, my families’ lives have been transformed.  It just so happens that my path is yoga and meditation, but it could be anything.  Your path may be owning a restaurant or another career path.  It is the ‘why’ that drives us to find the expression that is in alignment with who we are. Our ‘why’ supports and sustains us and we naturally want to give back.”

Phi’s family escaped Vietnam in 1979 and lived in a refugee camp for a year.  They came to America in the winter of 1980.  Her family was sponsored by the families in the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota.  She recalls arriving in Minnesota in the middle of winter.  “The townspeople met us at the airport and wrapped us in heavy winter coats.  It was a beautiful start to my time in America.  I was ten years old and began grade school in Minnesota, then middle school in Kansas.  We moved to Louisiana in the mid 80’s and I finished Middle School and continued on to high school in New Orleans and then Loyola University.

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

Phi says, “This quote, from Edith Wharton, is one of my favorite: ‘As ambassadors, we are holding the mirror up to reflect each other’s light.’”

Business Person of the Month: Lisa Pellissier of The Pink Elephant Antiques

The Pink Elephant

Hand painted sign by Mystic Blue Signs, out of New Orleans

Lisa Pellissier

2648 Government Street

Baton Rouge, LA.




“Buying antique and vintage items is the ultimate recycling.  Items are being passed down and reused from generation to generation.”

The Pink Elephant, under the direction of owner-manager Lisa Pellissier opened in April of 2016 at 2648 Government Street.  The space was formerly home to Aladdin’s Lamp antiques.  It was purchased in the fall of 2015 by Pachyderm Properties, a real estate business owned by Lisa and her husband Albert Pellissier.  The Pink Elephant is currently a multi-dealer antiques mall with twenty separate booths and dealers.  There are plans to add a consignment furniture shop in the building next door after renovations are completed. They hope to bring in an artistic or musical venue for the building that was Tipitina’s Music Co-op.

Lisa says, “My husband and I are in the real estate business.  We heard the buildings and property from Ragusa’s car repair to the end of the block were coming up for sale.  We live right around the corner in the Garden District and felt this was a good fit for us.  I had a booth in Aladdin’s Lamp antiques for several years so I had experience with the antique mall and knew how it worked.  I enjoyed the experience and looked forward to reopening the mall.”

“I currently manage the mall and have a booth there.  The Pink Elephant has a nice mix of items for every taste.  Each dealer has their own booth and they are responsible for stocking and pricing their own inventory.  The store policy is “cash and carry”, however, 30 day lay-away is available.  The items are old and fragile so there is a ‘no returns’ policy,” Lisa says.

“We have a dealer with hand painted and stenciled furniture, several booths carry vintage clothing, one booth is mostly vintage jewelry and one dealer’s specialty is old books.  We have several booths with original art; one artist incorporates old images into her art, others are original pieces.

Some booths have antique furniture and others have vintage items.  Throughout the mall you will find collectibles and knick-knacks for sale from various periods and many unique items for sale.  I specialize in mid-century items, 1960’s and 70’s.  I am always on the lookout for unique items for my booth as well as period pieces.  As a dealer you pick things that you think will sell but all your items tend to reflect your own taste.  You don’t buy stuff you don’t like,” explains Lisa.

“The main challenge of running a co-op business like the Pink Elephant, is working with twenty unique shops and owners.  Each booth dealer has their own space and makes their own decisions.  We give them a space to sell items or do their own thing.  They each have a vested interest in keeping the business open and running and want to keep customers happy and coming back.  Two dealers are always on site to run the store, work the cash register and offer assistance to customers. The dealers enjoy being there; they stop by to see what is happening and check their booth inventory.  It is a fun place to hang out.”

As a child Lisa was always interested in garage sales, estate sales, auctions and going to antiques stores.  She grew up in New Orleans where estate sales and auctions could be found almost every day and antique malls and shops and flea markets are everywhere. She has always loved “old stuff” and the history attached to them, i.e. where did it come from, who owned it, where has it been and how did it survive this long?  She feels old stuff is “a lot cooler” than new stuff.  New items of furniture have the “off the assembly line” look and feel; older items are unique and have character.  The fact they have survived this long shows they are well made and more solid than newer furniture.

Lisa came to Baton Rouge to attend LSU; she majored in horticulture and accounting.  She started her career in horticulture but found the South is not a good place for an outdoor business due to the heat.  When her children were in school full time, she looked into starting a business and decided to open a booth at Aladdin’s Lamp Antiques.  Lisa found she liked searching for items to stock her shop and then selling them.

“We look for inventory all over – estate sales, auctions, flea markets, etc.  Some individuals will come to us and say I’m clearing out my house; we will go to people houses and look through their items.  We buy items we think we can sell, we do not do consignment.  People are always asking for dressers, end tables and lamps, so we are always looking for these” Lisa says.

Lisa would like to see the Government Street “re-do” happen.  “The City was talking about it last summer, now it may be next year.  The Mid-City district is full of people walking to stores and restaurants in the Mid-City area.  Improving and repairing the street would aid in growth of the area.  This road repair would be a boon for all the merchants on Government Street.  There is a lot of growth and new construction happening now and more scheduled for the future with the businesses along the street,” Lisa explains.

Businessperson of the Month: CP Hospitality

Business of the Monthcp logo

CP Hospitality   

by Anne Lemmon

CP Hospitality is a multi-concept restaurant group that specializes in creating unique, house-made products and using them throughout different culinary platforms. Over the span of two years, CP Hospitality has grown from one restaurant, City Pork Deli and Charcuterie, to include City Pork Brasserie & Bar, and City Pork Kitchen & Pie.

City Pork Deli & Charcuteriecp deli   


M-F 7am-9pm

Saturday 9am-9pm

Sunday 9am-3pm

City Pork Deli and Charcuterie opened its doors and smokehouse in December 2013 at 2363 Hollydale Ave under the Perkins Overpass.  It was a good beginning; the Baton Rouge magazine 225 awarded them “Best New Restaurant” in 2014.  In that same year, they were also featured in several other cultural, travel and tourism-based publications throughout the region.   As a gourmet sandwich shop, City Pork mainly focused its attention on producing house-made meats and unique condiments for their sandwiches.  They also now feature salads and a few appetizers on the menu, and all of their sides are made from scratch.  Another area of focus for City Pork has been their Charcuterie boards, which feature their specialty meats, artisanal cheeses and City Pork’s homemade pickles, which quickly became a customer favorite.  The restaurant also features a deli case with everything from local favorites such as boudin, tasso, and andouille, to European specialties like confits, pâtés and dry-cured meats, all of which are showcased on their Charcuterie boards.  Recently, City Pork Deli and Charcuterie has launched its “Take-home Tuesday” program, which offers a complete, home-cooked to-go meal for a family of 4.  This has proven to be a great addition to the City Pork offerings, especially for the neighboring Southdowns and Garden District neighborhoods that the Deli serves.

City Pork Brasserie & Bar                   cp brasserie


M-Th 11am-9pm

Friday & Saturday 11am-10pm

Sunday 11am-8pm

Continuing to grow and expand their business, City Pork Brasserie and Bar opened at 7327 Jefferson Highway in 2014, in the building formerly occupied by Dempsey’s restaurant.  Continuing with its scratch-made tradition, City Pork Brasserie and Bar features an expanded menu including appetizers, entrées, a full-service bar, and, of course, City Pork’s famous Charcuterie boards.  Whereas the Deli is a fast-casual, order-at-the-counter restaurant, the Brasserie is more of a full-service dining concept featuring everything from the classic “Big Pig” sandwich that made the Deli famous to creative dishes like “Rabbit and Dumplings” and “Shrimp and Boudin,” City Pork’s spin on the Louisiana classic Shrimp and Grits.  City Pork Brasserie and Bar also features an interactive, open kitchen and a “Charcuterie and Cheese Bar” where customers can dine and interact with the staff, asking questions and educating themselves about some of the unique products on the boards.

City Pork Kitchen & Pie   cp kitchen


M-F  6am-2pm

In 2015, CP Hospitality opened its 3rd concept, City Pork Kitchen and Pie, at 6721 Exchequer Drive in Industriplex Subdivision, off of Seigen Lane and Airline Highway.  This concept is a southern-style kitchen featuring a full breakfast menu and blue-plate style lunch specials.  This location also specializes in homemade pies, with an extensive list of sweet treats that change weekly and can be bought by the slice or whole.  Similar to the Deli, the Kitchen also features a deli case, and serves as a retail outlet for the specialty cured meats that City Pork offers at their other locations.  Though it has only been open for a few months, City Pork Kitchen and Pie proved instantly to be a “hit” with all of the employees working in Industriplex subdivision, while still bringing in customers from all over Baton Rouge!

Currently, CP Hospitality has been focused on building up City Pork Catering, a full-service catering company that offers anything from quick office lunches to wedding receptions to whole hog roasts, onsite barbeques and tailgates.  Through their catering operations, CP Hospitality is also offering unique “Chef’s Table” dining experiences, and can accommodate any size group from 1 to 100.

City Pork’s reputation has grown by leaps and bounds since their beginning.  After the Deli won 225’s “Best New Restaurant” in 2014, they were crowned “Best Bar-B-Q”, after being 1st runner up to TJ Ribs in 2014, and also “Best Sandwiches.”  Following the lead from the Deli in 2014, the Brasserie was also crowned “Best New Restaurant” in 2015 and the Kitchen is on the ballot for the same title in 2016.  In fact, the City Pork family of restaurants have a total of 11 nominations for 225 Magazine’s “Best Of” competition!  Among several other awards and regional acknowledgements, the Brasserie also caught the attention of The Food Network and appeared on the Season premiere of Burgers, Brew and ‘Cue’ in January, 2016.

Continue reading Businessperson of the Month: CP Hospitality

Businessperson of the Month: Kerry Beary of Atomic Pop Shop

Atomic Pop ShopIMG_1074

Owner, Kerry and Jeff Beary

2963 Government Street

(225) 771-8455

Kerry Beary and her husband Jeff have owned The Atomic Pop Shop since May 2011. Before that, they were selling records and other vintage goods out of spaces rented in local antique stores; when the space in the Ogden Park area of Government Street opened up, they jumped at the chance.

Neither has a background in music. Kerry has a master’s degree in fine arts, and her husband has a master’s in communications, “but we both love records, and we always collected records,” said Kerry. “It was something that, you know, to do something you love in your daily life, it was kind of a natural thing.”

The couple moved from New York after 9/11, where Kerry worked as a teacher and painted and drew on the side. “I wanted to have a space where I could showcase it, and found that here.” Much of their collection was drawn from record shows and yard sales after the vinyl crash of the nineties. “It got harder and harder to find records, so you had to seek them out in other places.”

“We never approached it as, we’re opening a record store. We’re opening a vintage shop, and we just happen to sell records. And it’s just kind of developed into, or morphed into, more of a record shop, because the demand has asked for it.”

Even so, the Atomic Pop Shop still isn’t just a record store – an expansion in 2013 gave them a performance space, which features all-ages shows of local and touring bands almost every weekend. Kerry also uses the space as an art gallery, and they’ve set up a couple of vintage arcade games just for fun. They feel that it’s important to create a space that will help build the community, particularly via all-ages live shows. The store sponsored the Ogden Park Prowl, providing all the live music, as well as Midcity-area events like the Art Hop and White Light Night. They hope to do so again this year.

Baton Rouge is a great place for this kind of community-focused event because, Kerry says, “People like to stay home more, and if they can do things within their community, it’s a bigger incentive to get out and do things with their family. I also think people take a lot of pride in where they live, so it’s something that, if you can show off your neighborhood, and show not only that you have these wonderful things going on with your neighbors, but you can also draw in things from the outside that make it interesting, it does nothing but showcase your neighborhood and make people want to live there.”

When asked about the best way to start developing an interest in vinyl records, Kerry said that it was important not to be afraid to spend money. “You get what you pay for. So if you’re going to invest in records, which, just like anything else, costs money, they’re a little pricier than CDs, but the sound quality speaks for itself. […] What’s the point of buying something that’s supposed to sound amazing and sounds like you’re in a tin can?” There are a lot of cutesy brands out there – she refused to name names, but if you’ve ever been to Urban Outfitters before, you may be able to guess – that focus on style and aren’t as worried about quality. The players don’t cost much, but they’re also not likely to last very long, and poor-quality needles can actually damage records: the death knell for a serious collection. The best way, she said, was to try to find an older turntable, “the older, the better”; they tend to be higher quality. “Spend the money. Do it. Do it now, and you don’t have to worry about it.” Atomic Pop Shop will repair vintage turntables and other forms of older audio equipment, and will make digital copies of analog home recordings.

“I think that anyone that has ears, just like anyone who enjoys comic books, they’re going to want quality in what they’re doing. When you collect something, even if you feel you need to have this because it may be worth something someday, that’s great, but the majority of our customers, they just want the music.

“You know, and I feel that over the last, maybe even just the last three years, the majority of our customer base was eighty percent men. It’s started to change. We’re about sixty-forty now, which is pretty sweet. I like that. I like that a lot. Because, you know, why should guys have all the fun?”

“We don’t need to stand here and judge.”

The Bearys are also interested in preserving local music artists, and have found that the library is a great resource for research. The Main Library, which hosts the Baton Rouge Room’s local history collection, is barely a few miles away. Kerry often sends dedicated collectors there for background information. “It’s a great place to sample music or to listen to something that I don’t have. When I was a kid, the library had records,” she laughed. “We do send lots of folks to the library to help them find rare, hard-to-find information, [but] a lot of it’s unwritten, and a lot of it gets lost as folks get older.”

“And that library is just gorgeous. Even if you don’t have a reason to go to the library, now you do, because it’s just beautiful.” (We think so, too.)

“We’ve got a huge local section here that we are very proud of. Because, you know, everyone’s related to someone that sang a record, in Baton Rouge, or performed on a record, because there’s so much history here. Cajun music, and zydeco. It’s a very close connection. Unfortunately, lots of people throw them away, because they don’t think they’re valuable anymore. They don’t understand that they’re throwing away a piece of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, history. These are local labels, local artists, that you would never hear of anywhere else.”

“I think that owning a business is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than teaching, harder than getting through college. Because it’s so much minutiae, and so much unexpected stuff, and having a building, and dealing with all of that – but always striving to stay true to our mission, which is basically a comfortable place where people can come to chill out. Listen to music, chat a little bit, play some pinball, play some Pac Man, you know, just browse around, maybe learn something, and share it with people.”

“Kindness is just the way to do it.”


Business Person of the Month: Jeff Herman of Tiger Deaux-Nuts

Tiger Deaux-Nuts

Owner, Jeff Herman

5162 Government Street


“Fry it and they will come”


td2Jeff Herman is out to make Baton Rouge a better city, a half-dozen gourmet Deaux-nuts at a time.

“If you ever want to start a business, don’t think how hard can it be, just think it’s going to be the hardest thing you ever do in your life,” Jeff advises.

Jeff graduated from LSU with a degree in management and a concentration in entrepreneurship and small business.  His plan was to start and build small businesses as his career.  Jeff says, “I used my business classes to write a business plan and a start up plan.  I got a working capital loan, used my savings, and had some help from my parents.  It took me five months, and a significant investment before I could make my first doughnut.  This is the definition of insanity.”

The donut shop idea came to Jeff one Sunday morning.  He wanted a donut and the nearest available shop was Mary Lee donuts with standard donut fare.  Jeff realized Baton Rouge lacked a quality specialty donut shop and there were no donut shops near campus.   He had found his idea, a campus-area shop featuring gourmet donuts.  Jeff says, “This was a needed business venture I could execute on reasonable investment.   ‘How hard could it be to build a better doughnut shop?’ ” He found out.

When Jeff began the process of turning an idea into a business, he found it is a long and expensive process.  He turned to current innovative donut shops for ideas and inspiration, such as Voodoo donuts in Portland Oregon.   “They were innovative, but not culinary unique.  Voodoo is not just a donut shop; they made donuts fun and interesting.  They gave the donuts names and decorated them to be remembered; you remember which donut you ordered there,” Jeff says.

They created a brand, something Jeff wanted to do in Baton Rouge.  You would go out for “the donut” not just a donut.  Jeff wanted to go for quality, not convenience.  He wanted to put thought and creativity into his product. The experience should be fun and ‘rememberable’.  I want everyone who takes a bite of my doughnuts to say ‘wow,’ to think about what they’re eating. That’s what any good food should be.  You remember the name of the store and the product and want to go back.”

“When I set out to start Tiger Deaux-nuts, my dream wasn’t to wake up at 3 o’clock every morning to make donuts; my dream was to build businesses.”  Jeff opened his Tiger Deaux-nut shop in 2012 on Jones Creek road.  He was only open on Saturday and would sell out of donuts by 9 or 10 o’clock.  His plan was to open full time after building a customer base, and developing a product they wanted.   Jeff managed to bootstrap his startup Tiger Deaux-nuts into a thriving, yet almost secret, grassroots business.

The Deaux-nut flavors include bacon-maple, key lime pie, peanut butter and chocolate, bananas foster, apple pie, mint chocolate chip, vanilla jalapeño, s’mores and red velvet cake donuts. Some seasonal flavors are pumpkin spice, orange cranberry pecan and white chocolate peppermint.

“I was not reinventing anything, not creating a new product; I was taking something that’s outdated and putting some effort, and thought, and creativity into it. Consumers want lagniappe, they want something extra, and they’re willing to pay for it too,’’ Jeff says.

Jeff always had the idea to have his shop in Baton Rouge areas where people are forward thinking, and people in the neighborhood match what he was thinking, yet they geographically lack a donut shop.  In January, 2015, Jeff realized his long-term goal to move closer to his customers.  He moved his operation to 5162 Government Street in Mid-City.  He is now located in the building formerly known as Phil’s Oyster Bar.  He is open from 6:00 AM to noon Tuesday through Friday, 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday and closed on Monday.  Now he has space where he can brew coffee to pair with his Deaux-nuts.   The relocation also allows him to have an expanded breakfast menu, space for customers to “eat in”, and the possibility to expand his hours and his menu.  Jeff wanted to add something to bring people in without compromising the product he already has.  He created a breakfast sandwich; it comes with boudin, bacon or sausage, egg and cheddar cheese on a fried crispy Deaux-nut bun. The boudin is made in house.  Jeff says, “We are probably the only donut shop that makes its own boudin.   It has been very well received by our customers.  We could brand our business with it.  ”

Jeff has learned the demand for donuts falls as you get closer to lunch.  For lunch people want protein and sides so it is not financially feasible to be open all day.  He wants to continue to build the business and learn what he can offer on the menu to bring people in all day.

Jeff says, “My business is better since I stopped being the baker.  It’s really taking off.  I knew that it would; Baton Rouge is a culinary town.  I have the greatest staff in the city, two full-time staff and one part-time.  One is a pastry chef and the other has over a decade in top restaurants. We are a great team, we work well together, and our strengths complement each other.”

When asked about starting his business, Jeff says, “You always need a plan in place in the back of your mind, I need to know where I want to be; what I knew five years ago changes.  Some of it is learning as I go, growing up as I go, what is realistically important to me now may not have been when I started.  I’m changing my plan as I go. I am taking opportunities as they come.  Tiger Deaux-nuts has grown into something that does not fit the plan I originally had.”

When asked for advice on starting a business, he compares it to running a mile.  “Starting a business is like running a mile; it is not what you envision.  You drive a mile and say, I can do this, you envision it in your head and then you start running.  You take a few steps and say ‘This is easy’, then you get into it and it becomes hard, you become fatigued; the reality of running is not what you expected.  Do I have the motivation to finish?  Some people trip and never finish the race; you must adapt and keep running the mile.  The ones who start a business and make it work are those who push through and finish.  You can’t plan for everything when you build a small business.’’

Jeff is a member of the Baton Rouge area chamber, but is currently not very active.  He is still learning how to balance running the business and doing other things.  He has found there are a lot of things that need to be done for the business when it is not open.

When asked about the future of Baton Rouge, Jeff says “I started my business here; I stayed after graduation from LSU because I believe Baton Rouge has a future.  What I have seen as progress and growth in the city since I have been here is pretty unbelievable.  I can be an example of someone who wanted to stay.   As long as the city provides the fundamentals, Baton Rouge can grow and become a first class city.  The vision for the city will match what is happening, there is a lot of work ahead of us, and this is a very exciting time for Baton Rouge.”

On libraries, Jeff says, “Baton Rouge has one of the world class library systems in the world.  For Baton Rouge to grow and progress as a city, these resources are very important.  We need to catch up to other cities and surpass them.  It is fun to come to a library like this.  I came as a child but not so much as I got older.”

“The library system gives a community an opportunity to grow and move forward.  It is a place to meet people and is a great community center.  I am excited that the library continues to grow and has plans for a new facility downtown.  The library continues to plan for the future, for the new trends, digital books, computers, 3D technology and who knows what else is in the future.”

Jeff says, “I went straight from graduating to running and building a business.  Taking a full time job out of school would have been selling myself short and I might have become too comfortable to move on.  I am happy with where I am now; I enjoy what I am doing.”

Jeff tells us the Maple Bacon King cake will be back on Jan 2, 2016.  He recommends you place your order early because they sell out fast!

Business Person of the Month: Shauna Nicosia of Smooch My Pooch


smp logo

Central’s premier doggie daycare, salon and boutique!

“Dogs are not our whole life but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

Owner, Shauna Nicosia, poses with a client.
Owner, Shauna Nicosia, poses with a client.


18235 Magnolia Bridge Rd.
Greenwell Springs, LA 70739
(PHONE) 225.262.6061
(FAX) 225.261.4484

Smooch my Pooch is Central’s premier doggie daycare, grooming salon, overnight boarding facility and boutique located in the Central/Greenwell Springs area.   The business is owned by Shauna Nicosia and she successfully runs it with the help of her sister Shelley Black, her mom Robyn Parker and a wonderful caring staff.

Ten years ago, Shauna’s sister Shelley, with the help of her parents, purchased a mobile grooming van. Not only was she the first in Central to offer the service, but the first in the Baton Rouge area. It was a huge success.  Working in the mobile van became difficult with the birth of her first child so she sold the van.  Having been born and raised in Central, Shauna’s family saw a need for a dog grooming salon. “So my mom, my sister and I said, ‘Let’s do it!’ ”

Smooch my Pooch opened its doors in 2007. Shauna explains, “We opened up a smp groomingone groomer salon and a small doggie daycare. Eight years later we have expanded into so much more. We have 3 certified full time groomers, 3 large indoor/outdoor play areas, overnight and extended stay boarding, and the ever popular U-Shampooch.  Customers can bring in their dirty pooch and we supply the rest.   We have waist high tubs, towels, shampoos, colognes and more. We also have a great boutique with treats, apparel and lots of LSU items.”

The daycare for dog’s service they provide has been well received by the public.  “The principle behind doggie daycare is simple” says Shauna.  “We provide a safe and healthy atmosphere with lots of interaction, both with other dogs and with people. Dogs can participate in group play, gnaw on a favorite toy, hang out with humans, or just lounge and watch television. The point is that they’re not at home alone.

“Doggie Daycare allows your pet to play and socialize with other dogs. It is a safe place for your pet to be while you are at work or during home maintenance, pest control or cleaning person visits. It prevents hours alone that can result in separation anxiety, destructive behavior and boredom.  You can view your pooch on our webcam anytime and anywhere.

“Smooch my Pooch has grown so much in the last 8 ysmp middleears, so much, so that we ran out of room. We built our own building, just down the road from our former location.   Our new address is 18235 Magnolia Bridge Rd., Greenwell Springs, LA 70739.  It is almost twice the size, and we opened in October, 2015.  It has 3 indoor/outdoor play areas, much more boarding room and 8 cameras so customers can watch their pooch while they play. We are very excited about this move and look forward to growing with this community for years to come.”

Shauna feels libraries have been an important part of her life.  She says, “As a child my mom always brought us to the Central library, it was just the little white building on Hooper Road.  I remember how exciting it was to have my own card and to sign the back. She would even bring us for the read-alongs and other activities. The building probably wasn’t bigger than 1000 sq ft but to me and my sister it was the best part of our day. We were home schooled for a couple years so the library was a huge part of our learning experience.”

“Now I read a lot of pet journals and magazines. I’m always looking for articles to improve my business, whether it is me as a boss, ways to make sure the dogs are happy while they’re with us, or ways to increase revenue. During this building process I’ve been able to purchase and implement a lot of the tools and ideas I’ve learned through these different magazines. I still mostly read paper magazines and books. I’ve tried reading online and I just get too distracted.”

Shauna is proud to be a small business in the Central community. The Central Chamber of Commerce presented Smooch my Pooch with the Small Business of the Year Award for 2014. “Not only was it an honor but it is something I try to work at every day. Small businesses are so important for this community because the members really do care and want to keep their money local. It is definitely our job to give them the best service we can so they not only stay but keep us growing and working!”  Shauna says.

“I’ve learned so much about myself over the last 8 ½ years. When we first started I was so concerned about the “business” aspect, I was missing the personal touch. I hadn’t learned yet what customer service really was. For us it smp endcould be as simple as going out front and helping someone in and out of the car with their dog or looking at pictures on their phone of a new puppy. It took me a few years to slow down and enjoy not only the dogs but their owners too.

“Of course we all have room for improvement but I tell my employees all the time even if you feel silly or don’t want to, ALWAYS greet and thank every customer. It’s just as important to them as it is to me.”