Monday, October 12, 2009

This Old Building

How many years has this building sat on this corner and watched as a city grew around it.

Built and occupied as a grocery store on the corner of a gravel road and a newly paved road stood a rectangular shaped building. Its neighbors on the gravel road was a butcher shop and a few shotgun houses. behind it stood a rice mill, a foundry and a brickyard and on the opposite corner, a fur and trapping supply store. The city wasn't very big in those days and started thinning out just after the cemetary on Florida Blvd. You could still travel way out of town to the airport which is now Independence Park, and later on through the Clover leaf at Florida and Airline. The Broadmoor and Sherwood Forrest areas were truly rural, but all that has changed now. The city has grown east all the way to the Amite River, north into Baker and Zachary, and south all the way to the Assension parish line. And back were it all began, on the edge of Beureguard Town and Catfish Town, sat the red brick grocery that in time would become Baton Rouges Oldest Restaurant.

Can buildings have pain, or know fear? If so, could it feel the march of progress as over half of the building was torn down to make room for a new bridge over the Mississippi River. Thousands and thousands of cars passing over this new bridge every day and none notice the little red brick building or remember its sacrifice. Just another part of standing and watching as the city grows. All its neighbors have gone now, replaced by even more progress. The only reminders that remain is a name on the street between it and the river called Brickyard lane, and the building that once supplied trappers along the river. The area is different, changed, all new, except for the little red brick building.

How many bills were discussed by Legislators during a 3 martini lunch. How many business plans were made, or ideas explored? How many couples had thier first date there, or were proposed to in the Pastime? How many important people, movie stars, celebrities, athletes and political heavy weights have passed through its doors. How many articles, awards and honors has this old building seen in all its years on this corner?

If these walls could talk, what would they say. How many volumes of intresting tales could it tell. Young college students having thier first beer. People losing or winning money on all the Pay-off pinball machines that were in the bar until Grevenburg rolled over them with a bulldozer. How many cabs were called to pick up customers over the last 64 years. Athletes fighting over the same woman. Future politicions hacking the back door with a mechete' when Joe wouldn't open. Movies and commercials being filmed inside and outside. All the game day crowds with thier yelling and screeming and cheering for the Tigers. How many pizzas and poboys has been sold over all these years. What tales could it tell.

Its an old building, with many memories and many contributions to not only the city, but the people in the city, its customers and its visitors. Maybe thats why after all these years, the building has become an Historic Landmark. An honor to an old building who watched a city grow around it. This old building stands a steady watch, a gateway into downtown, a landmark for travelers and a testiment to stability and time.

My Fathers Restaurant

My Father bought the Pastime Restaurant from Joe Alesci in the mid 1960's and it has always been "his" restaurant. He dabbled in opening up 2 more restaurants along the same lines as Pastime and called them Wesley's. My Mother ran the one in Broadmoor and several different managers ran the one in the Rebel shopping center, but after 10 years or so, my father sold them to his brothers, who ran them for several years, and then resold them. So my father concentrated solely on "his" restaurant, the Pastime. My father passed away in 1996, and it was still "his" restaurant, and it will always be "his" restaurant. I wanted to open another restaurant that I could call mine, or at least, not "his". I thought about opening for several years but had to decide if I wanted to duplicate it exactly, or make the changes that would allow the restaurants to grow and expand. I knew I wanted to open a full scale duplicate of the Pastime in Lafayette and in Hammond, but before that, I wanted to open a smaller, more intimate, easily franchisable delivery type restaurant in the center of the city for our customers who no longer work in the downtown area. You see, after they move out, change jobs or retire, it's hard to make a special trip downtown, so I wanted to offer them a closer alternative. When we looked for suitable buildings we found the space in Drusilla. It was perfect for the smaller delivery concept and had a large amount of space in the back to build a commissary. The restaurant was designed and built on a shoestring budget using equipment that we had purchased and reconditioned over the years and finally opened in June of 2008.

Now came the chance to make changes that would allow the restaurant to be duplicated in any strip mall and make it "franchisable". We knew the food and the recipes could never be changed, nor how we prepare it. Our 2 main cooks at Pastime trained side by side for over 8 years, and one was moved to Pastime Jr. to continue using the exact same ingredients, from the exact same suppliers and prepared the exact same way. Every single order that comes out of the kitchen of Pastime Jr is the exact same as if it would have been prepared in the Pastime. With this addressed, we moved onto other things that we could change. The old garage sale type chairs and tables, brick walls, and obnoxious neons would not be included. Instead, we built our own tables and booths and sheet rocked and painted in a theme of Black and Khaki. We also knew that we wanted to deliver, and that required a whole new POS system capable of handling drivers, insurance, licensing and order timing. The next thing we decided on was servers and that was a big decision. At Pastime, it is hard to find counter people who want to work only 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, but servers, since they can pick and choose shifts were easier to staff. Besides, the dining room was too small to yell out orders. This seems to have worked out very well, after all, Pastime had servers back in the 50's and 60's so it really wasn't breaking any traditions. The other big thing that we could change was what we served the food on. Pastime spends over $50,000.00 per year on Papyrus paper products to serve our Pizzas and Poboys on. We decided to serve our pizzas on a specially designed pizza tray that allows the pizza to retain its heat, and makes the crust crispier, and to serve our sandwiches on an industry standard sandwich tray. This not only gave a better presentation, and made it a little classier, but saved on the yearly expenses of papyrus paper plates.

Everything from staffing, food preparation, equipment, and atmosphere was decided before the build out was started. Myself and 1 other employee built everything you see in the restaurant, but the chairs, cabinets over the bar and the equipment. Several other people helped design and decorate the bathrooms, and a few even volunteered to paint and stain. After all of our inspections, emergency room visits, and long 12 hour days, the restaurant, "my" restaurant, not my fathers restaurant, opened in June of 2008.

It may not be my fathers restaurant, but it would have never been possible without his teaching, training, wisdom and love. Without the skills he taught me, from carpentry, to refrigeration, to food preparation and running a business, I would never have been able to open Pastime Jr, or the future restaurants in Lafayette and in Hammond, so I guess he is just as much a part of this restaurant as I am, and that makes it "our" restaurant.

I Love you dad. I'll take care of the restaurants and the employees. Thanks for everything. We miss you.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

A New Kid in Town

In June of 2008, right before Gustav and the great recession, The Pastime expanded to a second location in Drusilla Shopping Center, called Pastime Jr. This smaller, more polished LSU themed restaurant, with servers, booths and a larger selection of wines, has the exact same menu, using the same quality ingredients, prepared by the same loyal and long time staff. While Pastime Jr. is starting out its journey into history, the rich traditions, bold flavors and attentive staff have been around for decades. Drop by and enjoy your favorite selections from our extensive menu or call in for an order to go, or to be delivered. If you are new to the Pastime restaurants, we would like to suggest one of our award winning pizzas, such as the unique Boudin Pizza®, or our pizza with everything on it. If you are in the mood for a Poboy, try the Roast Beef with swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles. Many people have unsuccessfully tried to duplicate the deep and spicy flavor of our roast beef, but the two ingredients that they can't duplicate are the knowledge of exact timing and the love and dedication of those who prepare it. If Pizzas or Poboys are not what you are craving, try one of the Calzones, sandwiches or handmade burgers.

We are proud of our little Pastime Jr. Watching it grow from humble beginnings bathed in rich traditions. We hope it grows and becomes as time honored and as well known as the original location downtown.

If you would like a menu or more information, drop by our restaurant family website at

We hope to see y'all soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Pastime Tiger Transit Shuttle Bus

The Pastime Tiger Transit Shuttle Bus

A lot of folks don't really know the history of the Tiger Transit. It is NOT a CATS or Capital Area Transit creation.

It all started around 1989. Several local businesses would hire independent Coaches, and sell bus tickets that included a meal, wine, and sometimes game tickets to each game. It was usually a single coach and only a handful of people could ride. Well, we took that idea, and in keeping with Pastimes informal atmosphere, decided to do the same thing, only different. We hired my Aunt and her big yellow School Bus to bring our customers to the game. It was only 1 bus, but we would pack it down. We only charged $4.00 for a round trip, and gave away beer as well. This went on for many years until insurance problems became an issue. At this time, CATS decided it could do the same thing, with more pick up points throughout the city, and offered Pastime one of those spots. This allowed us to move more customers and because of the availability of parking, the quick transit time to the stadium, and the large amount of regular bus riders established by the Pastime, we fast became the largest stop. Each year, LSU would subsidise CATS version of the Tiger Shuttles, but eventually, that subsidy ran out and CATS discontinued the service. They did this with less than 2 weeks before the first home game so we scrambled to get our service going again. We called a meeting with LSU, BRPD, The Sheriffs Office, LSU police, CATS and all transportation companies at the Pastime. We discussed contraflow, police escorts, parking, reducing routes, etc but in the end, CATS declined to continue the service.

In the corner of the table, sitting quietly, was a man named Keith Washington. After the meeting, he came to me and said, "I can do this, no problem". Mr. Washington is the owner of Baton Rouge Commuter Service and owned several buses with access to several more. From that moment on, Mr Washington and BRCS have ran the Tiger Transit from the Pastime.

Now don't be confused with the attempt by Hotard, which failed, and the present independent shuttles from the Sheraton and the Hilton. City Buses (CATS) were leased, officers were hired for escort, and the buses use contraflow down Nicholson. Hummm, when we suggested that, we were told we could not lease city property, we could not get the proper permits for contraflow, and the police escort would be cost prohibitive. Even though we had the answers, we guess we didn't have the clout. In any event, those buses are similar to the buses of the 90's and ran as an independent service and charge a higher price than the original Pastime Tiger Transit. . In the meantime, we are still busing 4-5 bus loads per game from the Pastime, to Tiger Stadium and back, and do it for only $12.00. All money goes directly to BRCS for payroll, fuel and insurance. The Pastime does not make a single dime off of this service. We provide the Transit as a service to our customers. We do get some benefit's, which are advertising and 4-5 buss loads of customers before and after the game. WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN situation for all. Win for us. Win for BRCS. Win for the police as it reduces parking and traffic congestion, Win for LSU as we get the fans to the game at no cost to the university or the state, and a Win for the fans as they can eat, drink, watch games, and take a quick ride to the game and not have to worry about driving, parking and walking from the edge of campus. And after the game, they can sit and relax at the Pastime, catch the scores, have a meal and wait for the traffic to die down. I love it when you can keep things simple, and everyone benefits.

Jumping in with both feet

Way back in the day, I ran a BBS, that's a Bulletin Board System for those too young to remember what life was like before having access to the Internet. In fact, that little BBS was the only Public Internet access available at that time. Then AOL and Yahoo, both content providers, allowed access through what they called a doorway. It was a tremendous task keeping up with technology back then, and having the latest hardware so people could dial in on blazing fast 28800 modems. It got to the point where I could no longer support it financially, and had to many other obligations and priorities, so on April 1, 1996, I pulled the plug and was content to let technology pass me up. Now, 13 years later, I have decided that The Pastime needs to have a presence on the World Wide Web. So, we looked into a all the social webs sites, web pages, blogs, etc. and have worked hard at creating this presence. We are happy to announce that we have the following sites on the Internet:

We will have a YouTube presence within the next month as we will film Game days, food prep, bands and more.

With these sites, you will receive news, updates, event information, history, menus, retail sales, coupons, specials, photos, and even be able to order food online.

It took awhile, but we are now out here. We hope to become better connected with our customers, past, present and future.

Well, that's my first Blog post. Lets see where are this leads us as we head into the future.