All signs point to a robust retail market in Lafayette.

With retail sales continuing to hold the top spot as the standout economic indicator in the parish and national retailers getting back in expansion mode, lots of eyes are turning to Lafayette. April sales of more than $459 million brought the year-to-date total to $1.82 billion, an increase of 9.3 percent over 2011. April’s sales reflect an increase of 4.1 percent over April last year. Services, automobiles and building materials are the top performing categories with increases of 13.9 percent, 11 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively, over 2011 numbers. All other categories show increases over last year, except furniture, which is down 7.7 percent, according to numbers reported by the Lafayette Parish School System.

With auto sales on the upswing, it’s no wonder two major dealership projects are under way — Moss Automotive Superstore on Evangeline Thruway near Surrey and Infiniti of Lafayette, a new car dealership next to Hampton Toyota on Johnston Street (see “The Big Ten” story on Page 13 for more on these developments). ABiz is the top source in Acadiana for breaking retail news, which is published online daily, Tuesday afternoons in ABuzz and monthly in the print edition. What follows is a recap of some of those reports.

Mr. Keet’s 2
Gerard and Helen Baudoin opened the second location of their popular 10-year-old Maurice restaurant in Lafayette June 19. Mr. Keet’s took over the old Ryan’s on Ambassador Caffery across from Sam’s (see Commercial Progress Report on Page 26).

Cheddar’s Casual Café
Allen Perkins’ Beaumont-based WOW Food Concepts invested $3 million in an 8,500-square-foot Cheddar’s Casual Café on Johnston Street across from the Mall of Acadiana. ABiz first reported the expansion to Lafayette in early September; the restaurant opened June 18. It seats 275 guests dining under a towering cedar ceiling and has created 150 new jobs.

Bolt Nightclub
Justin Menard and Joe Speyrer leased the former Trynd space from Nidal Balbeisi and opened their new concept, which includes an alternative lifestyle nightclub, in late June. At least in the short term, the downstairs area will be available for private functions, Menard says. The business, called Soiree at Vermilion, will contract with catering companies or private chefs to provide food for a variety of special events — from small baby showers to wedding receptions capable of accommodating 350 to 400 guests — but Soiree’s staff will run the event. “We’re basically going to hire out for that; we’re not touching the food just yet,” Menard says. The new owners have not ruled out eventually converting the downtown space to a restaurant. Upstairs, the duo introduced Bolt Nightclub, taking advantage of Menard’s and Speyrer’s experience in the bar business. The couple, partners in life and in business, most recently worked for Jules Downtown, a popular gay/lesbian bar on Jefferson Street. Menard spent eight years at the club, the last four as manager, and Speyrer worked at Jules as a bartender for a decade. While Bolt bills itself an “alternative lifestyle” bar, it hopes to attract a wide demographic regardless of sexual preference. “Basically, we’re catering to everyone,” Menard says.

Parish Ink
Jillian and Bram Johnson, the sister-brother duo behind the popular Parish Ink line of Louisiana-centric apparel and operators of the self-named T-shirt shop in downtown Lafayette, are expanding their brand and moving to River Ranch. Their new venture, Red Arrow Workshop, will open on Rue Promenade next door to Maven’s Menswear later this summer (see this month’s Business Profile on Page 9).

Bamboo Mexican Grill and Pub
Adam Young and Ernesto Ortega opened Bamboo Mexican Grill and Pub in the Oil Center Gardens in the former location of Boulevard Grille (see Page 7).

Courtesy Automotive
Courtesy Automotive Group added another pre-owned center to its growing franchise of used and new car dealerships from Lafayette to Morgan City. The new Abbeville store, located at 101 W. Summers Drive, is the city’s second pre-owned center. The company has two such locations in both Morgan City and in Lafayette, and one each in St. Martinville, Franklin, Breaux Bridge and New Iberia.

Five Guys Burgers   
First reported by ABiz in late 2010, a familiar face is introducing the country’s top rated fast-food burger to Lafayette. Billy Jacob, whose family owned and operated Jacob’s Restaurant at Four Corners from 1935-1985, returned to Louisiana that year from Atlanta to develop the successful Virginia-based chain, Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Seventeen years before returning to his home state, Jacob worked for Popeyes’ corporate entity as executive chef. The 2,700-square-foot restaurant will seat 100, accommodating about 20 for outside dining, and should open mid-fall at Ambassador Caffery and Settlers Trace (near Starbucks).

Rouses on Johnston Street
If all goes as planned, Rouses second Lafayette store, set to be constructed south of the Mall of Acadiana at Johnston Street and Duhon Road (next to Walgreens), will open late next summer. Plans call for a 55,000-square-foot store, which is 10,000 square feet larger than the existing Lafayette store on Bertrand Drive. The Thibodaux-based chain expanded to Lafayette Parish in early 2009, opening a store in Youngsville.

Ema’s and Bailey’s   
On May 25, Ema’s Restaurant closed its doors in the Acadian Village shopping center on Pinhook Road to join Bailey’s at the Centerpiece Shopping Center on Johnston Street. Bailey’s Seafood & Grill changed its name to Bailey’s Bistro and eliminated its lunch menu. Ema’s Restaurant serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week at its new location.

Agave No. 2
Hoping to take advantage of the large draw of sports fans to Cajun field, Nidal Balbeisi expanded his popular downtown Mexican eatery to Bertrand Drive. The new Agave Mexican Grill and Cantina opened in February in the old WOW Café and Wingery spot across from Cajun Field, Balbeisi says. WOW shut down late last year.

E’s Kitchen
In April Lafayette native Paul Ayo and his wife Jenine opened E’s Kitchen in Parc Lafayette. The 1,900-square-foot store is next to Armentor Jewelers in the new mixed-use development near the intersection of Camellia Boulevard and Kaliste Saloom Road. E’s Kitchen sells a wide selection of unique kitchenware and gadgets; among its top brands are Shun Knives, Swiss Diamond (hard-surface non-stick cook ware), Regal Ware (American-made pots and pans), Joseph Joseph (gadgets and utensils), Edgeware (knife sharpening tools) and Kuhn Rikon (Swiss made cook ware and tools).

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