Breaux’s Grocery sits along Hwy. 699 in Leroy.
Otis Breaux, first at left, opened the grocery store in 1944.
Leonard Breaux is the son of Otis Breaux. Leonard now owns the store and goes to work in the store every day.
Breaux’s Grocery operating for 73 years in Vermilion Parish community
LEROY — Breaux’s Grocery is tucked under a canopy of tall trees in the small community of Leroy on LA Hwy. 699.
Across the street is the Catholic Church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. There’s a bench on the small porch where patrons can sit back to drink a cup of fresh coffee.
To the left of the door is an improvised community bulletin board. Cards and signs advertise fresh eggs for sale, pecan cracking and shaking, and lawn care.
It’s 7 a.m. and Leonard Breaux, the owner and operator, has the hot coffee waiting, the boudin is ready for breakfast, lunch or snack, and he takes lunch orders for poboys. The grocery has been open since 6:00.
It’s 8:10 and there are at least seven vehicles in the parking at the front of the store. There’s a steady stream of customers coming in for their morning drinks, ordering lunch and grabbing snacks for later. The conversation topics run a wide gamut and some of it in French.
“I don’t think that the store is much different than other stores. I have nuts and bolts and potatoes. So what?” says Leonard with a big smile.
You heard right! This grocery has the most fascinating selection of goods for a 36 X 36 feet space.
Need a straw hat? There are some to choose from. Need plumbing and electrical supplies? Got you covered.
Have a garden to plant? There’s Cherokee premium select seeds of all kinds of vegetables. Want to barbeque? There’s charcoal, starter, matches, steel brushes to clean the grill, sauce, hot dogs and buns.
There are gas cans inside and two gas pumps outside. Need ice? There are ice chests inside and bags of ice outside. There’s pet food, antifreeze, bicycle playing cards, cigarettes and other tobacco products behind the counter, pickled quail and chicken eggs, merlitons on the counter, first aid items, sunglasses and way too many other items to mention here.
There are potatoes and onions, sweet potatoes, too. Loaves of Evangeline Maid waft of freshly delivered bread and buns. There are huge watermelons on the floor. The coolers have soft drinks and beer, fresh eggs and lunch meat, tomatoes, ice cream and milk. Shelves have all kinds of canned foods imaginable. There’s an Icee machine, too.
Breaux’s Grocery is like other small community groceries. They get you through in a pinch, save you from that ten to fifteen mile drive. The community knows what’s available and relies on it. The community is used to personal service.
“I’m a good listener. I don’t talk much and don’t like the limelight,” admits Breaux. “I tell my clerks that it’s important to be a good listener. You have to be helpful and nice.”
While we are talking, there’s a customer who comes to pick up a few items. Especially, he comes in for a chat.
“There’s too much rain this season,” says the guy. “The rain’s not good for the rice and beans and not good for the farmers. It’s not good for the retail business either, huh, Leonard?”
Leonard smiles and nods.
“That rain is good for the cane, though,” says the guy. “Sugar cane, that’s the scourge of the land, I tell you. They burn that cane and it messes up everything. It messes up the road. Then, I have to climb up on the ladder to wash off all that soot.”
Leonard smiles a bit more and agrees with his customer. “There’s been some rain.”
When his customer has gone, we get back to the interview.
“The amazing thing is that the store is still here,” says Leonard. “My parents, Otis and Fadrey Sonnier Breaux, opened the store in 1944. Half of this building was a pharmacy down the highway. My dad hauled it here on logs. He added to the space. They lived at the back of the store.”
“Over a period of years, there were other stores. We’ve always had competition. Now we are the only ones here in Leroy.”
“This is a picture of my dad sitting on the porch with some of his neighbors in 1988. The building is basically the same as back then. Same porch, same steps. We have a new bench now.” Leonard smiles with pride.
Indeed, there were watermelons for sale back then, too.
And if you sit on that bench about 7:30 in the morning with a hot cup of coffee, you might hear a cricket chirping. You might be lucky enough to see it hopping across the porch to disappear onto the small patio with a table and chairs in the shade of the crepe myrtle tree.
You might hear the cows in the pasture to the west of the church parking lot. There will definitely be a few birds chirping in the trees. The cars and trucks drive by, going to the east or to the west on Hwy 699. A customer might come out of his truck while talking on his cell phone and the coins he drops into the coke machine will clink as they do. The noise the drink makes as it’s delivered wouldn’t even make a dog bark. It’s all part of the morning symphony at Breaux’s Grocery in Leroy.
I, for one, hope that Breaux’s Grocery will be here for many more years, with Leonard behind the counter.
There is no better way to start the day.