Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 Years

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Between the tranquil banks of Bayou Petit Caillou and Louisiana Highway 56 sits an icon of resilience among bayou folks.  Weathered to a respectable patina, the old cypress board-and-batten building is home to an old general store, with counters covered in “penny candy” jars just like it did 100 years ago.

Once inside Cecil Lapeyrouse’s Grocery, you think you’ve stepped back in time, surrounded by antiques at least as old as the building itself. Established in 1914 by Cecil’s grandfather Gustave Lapeyrouse, this month marks 100 years for the business. Other than the prices and new-fangled energy drinks, not much has changed in this piece of bayou history.

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 years

Etta Lapeyrouse and her good friend and folkartist, Dot-tee*

Etta, Cecil’s wife he refers to as the “backbone of the store”, worked a short while in the store before their marriage in 1987. At that time, Cecil worked in the oil field seven days on and seven days off.  During his seven days away at work, Etta kept the store chugging along while raising their blended family of three sons. In the beginning, she had the help of her sisters and her right-hand woman, Maggie, who is still with them after 28 years.

Just one look around the store, and Etta’s love of old things and antiques becomes evident. We make our way down the narrow isle, walking between the old glass cabinets and old shelves lined with hardware.  Off to the side is a little room where family and friends hang out.  I remember the day I was welcomed into the inner sanctum, and I was in awe of the antique-filled room. Etta’s collections of speckled enamelware in almost every color lines the walls. So extensive is her collection that Universal Studios has rented some of the rare cookware, unique stoves, and other antiques for period films.

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 YearsOnce we pull ourselves away from that amazing room, we step out onto a brick path that leads through Etta’s garden down where her talent for taking one person’s junk and making it a harmonious garden treasure is almost unbelievable.  Each time I visit her garden, which is going on five years now, I see something I didn’t notice before.

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 YearsThe brick path leads down to the edge of the bayou, where minnow tanks hold live bait for fishermen and old gas pumps sit at the ready for the next boat needing a fill up. The store, a mainstay for the community, provides groceries, hardware, ice, fuel and bait to residents, commercial fishermen, and weekend warriors alike.

Hard hit during and since the BP oil spill in April 2010, their dedication to serving the community continues undaunted.  Through the years, their business has seen some trying times; but they know they are not alone in those times, for when they are suffering, they know their neighbors are suffering, too.  Even though many of the commercial fishermen have since gone out of business, Cecil and Etta stand firm and continue to offer all the same services to those as resilient as they.

Their dedication to community does not go unnoticed or unappreciated, and as a testament to that, I heard the same descriptive phrases over and over in reference to this unique couple during the celebration this past weekend:

“Good as gold.”  “Give you the shirt off their backs.”  “Do anything for you.”  “Always helping and giving to others.”  “Treat us just like family.”

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 YearsIn recognition of their community spirit and hard work, Parish President Michel Claudet presented them with the key to the parish, a well-deserved honor. There is no doubt that in a bayou community this close-knit, Lapeyrouse’s committed customers would give them the shirts off their backs, too.

There’s something to be said about an establishment that is still going strong after 100 years. But when it comes right down to it, it’s more about the people.  Always ready with his sharp wit and a quick smile, Cecil’s bark is way worse than his bite.  Etta, and her love of old things, has kept her grounded during hurricane storm surges, the elevation and remodeling of their old house next to the store.  And now with grandchildren running around, there is a never a dull moment in the lives of this exemplary couple.

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 YearsAt some point during a weekend stay with me or during a Bayou Woman Adventure, you just might find yourself on a car tour along the back-bayou road, which leads from my bayou to Etta’s. There we will visit with her, tour her store, and lounge in her peaceful garden.  We might even stroll down to the water’s edge and enjoy a cool drink while sitting on one of her many inviting benches, enjoying the Gulf breeze.

It is my distinct pleasure to have met and made friends with these icons of Bayou Petit Caillou, and I hope that Etta and I get to swap stories about life, family, and flowers for many years to come. Congratulations to the entire family for hanging tough when times were hard and for setting such a great example of community and tenacity to all of us who know and respect them.

My tribute to them and their commitment to their bayou community is the following collection of photos taken over the years during visits to their fascinating store and magical garden.  Thank you, Etta and Cecil!

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 Years

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 Years

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 Years

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 Years

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 YearsWith much love and respect,

BW

*Please read more about Dot-tee and her artwork here.

And if you are so inclined, please hop over to Country Roads Magazine and read my piece in the May issue!

 

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Comments

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Celebrates 100 Years — 34 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing such a wonderful story about the store. Your story makes it easier for us to keep on working every day like we do. We love this place and put my heart into everything we do for it and reading what you wrote puts a smile on my our faces and in our hearts. Thanks for being such a faithful and loving friend. Your Cocodrie family!!

    • It is my pleasure to do so, and have been wanting to write about y’all for quite a while. The 100th anniversary seemed like a great time to do so! So thankful for your friendship, too!

    • Ahoy Etta & Cecil! Many thanks to Capt. Wendy for bringing us to meet ye (we were “Pyrates Incognito” that day) – the shop is a true gem, an adventure into history and some great tales o’ life in South Louisiana. The beauty o’ the place is the feel o’ community that is abundant there; generations o’ Lapeyrouse welcoming travellers from all parts o’ the Bayou (and beyond) to make groceries, hardware, a cold drink, ice…or just to swap stories over the days catch.

        • @Cammy did ye add yer email on the right hand “Subscribe For Updates!” option? If not, do so and ye’ll be on “the list” – if ye have already, double check yer junk folder to see that it hasn’t made a mistake (then unmark any emails as “not junk”).
          Alternatively, if ye think ye did sign up already, use the same form to remove yer email – then add it in again and watch for the confirmation.

    • Yep, I got my email notification.
      Is there a small campground next to the store? About 7 yrs ago Hubby and I took a day trip looking for campgrounds and I vaguely remember this store. You can bet if I ever get back down there I will make a point of visiting the store. It sounds like it’s right up my alley.

      • There may be a small campground nearby, and it most certainly is right up your alley, Steffi. If you go, and I’m not around, be sure and tell them who you are! They will welcome you, and you will be most welcome to get you a soft drink and hang out in the garden. You will love it!

  2. kicked out of chemo today. stuck in cornfields. and now I see this…
    go ahead see if my depression gets worse. out to take it all out on the sacaulaits.

    • Go ahead and wrap up that chemo so you can make a trip down. I didn’t mean to worsen your depression, by any means, but surely a super good fishing report would have made you feel worse? Hang tight, Blu. You’ll be done her soon enough!

  3. No end in sight for chemo, they just promised not to dig me body up to continue after the funeral. Big tstorm here. caught 2 gills saw a crappie.

  4. Love the story and the photos. Reminds me of the little store/gas station/feed store/public phone place/etc. that was in the town (2 buildings total) that my 1/2 brothers’ father was from. It is a 2 hour drive northeast of us. It is a small world and the owner of that old store had a daughter who became a teacher and taught my children. And her husband worked with me at the newspaper. Strange that they moved to the same town we live in. I did love the old counters, the big, awkward, gold colored cash register that had the tabs with numbers on them pop up when he rang up a price. The big, glass candy and cookie jars, penny candy, the Coke machine with nickel cokes! And the gas pump that pumped the gas into the top in a clear bowl where it was measured and then into the cars. I would love to come go thru that store! The owners would probably have to push me out to close up!

    I do have a question. What type tree is the one blooming in the last photo? It is beautiful.

    • Maybe every community has an old icon like this one. Truly, they are the dinosaurs of small community. There place is truly like stepping back in time, and i love to go visit Etta there when we can just sit and chat. I’ve even dropped by before and been welcomed to my share of boiled crawfish, served in an old washtub–not that i hate an entire washtub full!!! I will have to ask Etta about that tree–that is an old photo and the tree froze this past winter, and I will let you know what she says, ok? Etta says it’s a Cassia tree – or rainbow shower tree!

  5. Thanks for such a beautiful tribute to my sweet Uncle Cecil and Aunt Etta and the amazing dedication they have to keeping the store open all these years.
    Visits to the store and seeing the current generation, grand kids of family, and locals buzzing around the store reminds me of my childhood where our world revolved around the store and it’s customers every single day.
    It was an extension of our home two doors down and where we celebrated birthdays, and gathered for life’s big moments like the first day of school. It was where we learned about business, customer service and how to work hard. From simple things like picking up trash in parking area out front to stocking shelves inside, to counting minnows and filling gas tanks at the bayou side, it was a daily part of a wonderful childhood to have grown up just two doors down and it has been beautiful to watch the next generation be raised in the same environment for the past 25 years as it was for the previous 75 years. Hearing the sweet comments about Cecil & Etta echo the comments said about my grandparents Chester and Ruby as they kept the store open during their lifetimes. May the future of the store be just as blessed!!!

    • You are most welcome, Tory. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you at the event. With the family reunion going on next door, there was quite a bit of traffic and nearly impossible to meet and talk to everyone! What wonderful memories you have of growing up with the store in the family. Thanks for sharing those with us!

  6. Got any “old time” hardware stores “bayou”? (Corny, but I couldn’t resist. LOL) I really like those stores too.

  7. How well I remember our trip to Cocodrie and the store. There was so much to see on that trip I hardly could take it all in. Clearly, another trip is required. (Honestly, I think I still was so gobsmacked by seeing those roseate spoonbills, it took a while to come back down to earth!)

    Congrats to them on the centenary. That’s more than an accomplishment in the normal sense. There have been some challenges that would have done in lesser folk.

    Enjoyed the Spanish Moss piece, too. The old City Hotel where I’ve stayed in Breaux Bridge has bousillage construction, and one of the neatest features is a place where they’ve cut out part of the wall so you can see the construction.

    But what really is fun to remember is going to my great-aunt’s house in Baton Rouge when I was a kid. They lived out in the country, more or less, near Harrells Ferry Road. There were pecans trees and lemons, and a tire swing, and a sleeping porch. I remember mattresses and pillows filled with Spanish Moss. I don’t remember chiggers at all, or anything else uncomfortable — just the springiness of that moss. Gosh, there must have been a lot in those mattresses!

    • I didn’t realize the roseates excited you so! Guess what? They were still in the tree Saturday, and I swear one of them cried out, “Where’s your friend, Shoreacres? When is she coming back?” 🙂 Any time, my friend, any time! (A photo of bousillage would have been nice to go along with the Spanish Moss piece, but they don’t give me much room, and I really wanted to share the images of my original Mary Verret moss dolls! They are my treasures.

  8. Your photos do great justice to the eclectic and antique nature of the place. I’m hoping all our friends stumble by here and notice this link and check out the photos.

  9. What a wonderful place! I don’t think I’d know which way to look. I love old places, old things and repurposing other’s folk’s junk into garden art. Once there, I think you’d have a time getting me out!

    Loved Dot-tee’s artwork, though I thought I’d imbibed a bit too much, when I spied those pink gators! lol

    The article on Spanish moss was informative and interesting. Making moss dolls wasn’t something I knew about.

    I did know moss was often used as stuffing. I’d always been told it was chiggers in the moss (aka ‘red bugs’) that were the basis of the saying, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

    • There is so much to look at, that you are right! Could get lost in the store for days! Dot-tee is known for her pink alligators and their antics! Glad you learned something new about the Spanish Moss–the dolls. I am so proud of mine (my daughter’s really, but I hide them when she comes so she won’t take them with her) because Mrs. Verret has been gone since 1998, and the dolls are natural history treasures.

  10. I happened to walk past the TV this afternoon when Buying The Bayou (rerun) was on, and what do I see…the Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery. The buyers were on their way to Cocodrie.

  11. It was 1993 as best I can remember when I found myself stranded, almost penniless, but employed as a teacher in Terrebonne Parish. A disastrous relationship brought me to this strange land where I couldn’t even call roll at school without asking for a volunteer to come in at lunch to help me learn how to pronounce Thibodaux, Robichaux, Ledet, Lapeyrouse, and many other names with which my tongue was not familiar. Just up the road from where I was staying was this little store where I had bought gas a couple of times. The people were friendly that worked there and I had noticed that they sold food as well as other items. Swallowing my pride and gathering up my courage, I approached woman owner and asked if they ever let people charge and explained I was waiting for my teaching check to come in the first of the month. She reached under the counter and pulled out this long box full of old-fashioned receipt books and opened an account for me. That was Etta. She is my best friend to this day although we live miles and miles apart. Cecil and Etta are special people and I love them.

    • What a wonderful story of part of your life adventure down the bayou but also of Etta’s loving kindness. I’m sorry you’re not still down here, as I would love to meet you. Can’t wait to talk to Etta about you and let her know that you left a comment. She will be thrilled! At what school were you teaching? Because there is no school near the store. I’m wondering how you ended up way down there? Yes, I’m nosy, but we do love a good story around here! Thanks for reading and for sharing! Come back any time, Pat.

      • I taught at several schools in Terrebonne Parish – LaCache, Little Caillou, Upper Little Caillou, and South Terrebone. The story about how I wound up in Cocodrie is long, not pretty, has something to do with a man, and I just don’t want to talk about it! The best thing about the relationship with Mr. Not Wonderful is that it brought me to Louisiana and set in motion some amazing events that enriched my life immeasurably.
        Would like to meet you as well. Etta has told me we would hit it off.

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