Downtown’s best-kept secret revealed.
By Lisa Hanchey
Photo by Robin May
Beginning in 1987, two brothers from Jerusalem, Mike and Nidal Qamhiyeh, quietly made their mark on Lafayette’s downtown area. At the time, the Hub City was in the midst of the oil bust, and property was cheap and plentiful. The Qamhiyehs’ father, Mamdouh, thought that setting up his sons in a business would be a good way for them to earn some income while studying at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now UL Lafayette). So he bought them a small Jefferson Street men’s store, Right On Fashions, to start them on their way. “My dad was in retirement, so he could not financially support all of us through college,” Nidal explains. “So he invested the money in the retail place so we could work and support ourselves. And, thank God, it was a very successful move at the time.”
The brothers Qamhiyeh thrived at USL, with Mike earning a degree in industrial technology engineering and Nidal in general business. Younger brother Billy graduated from UL in business administration, and has master’s degrees in global business, banking and finance. He is currently working in Jordan, with plans to return to UL for more studies. Mike and Nidal became U.S. citizens in the 1990s. “Lafayette has been very good to us,” Nidal says.
Over time, the retail business flourished, and the elder Qamhiyeh brothers bought a larger store across Jefferson St. called King Fashions. After moving, they changed the name to Right On Fashions, which is owned by their business, Texas Property. Mike serves as president of the company.
When adjacent property at 407, 409, 411, 413 Jefferson Street and 110 Polk Street became available, the Qamhiyehs snapped it up. The brothers now lease that space to Marley’s, Legend’s and Legend’s Annex. They also acquired the property across the street, selling it a couple of years ago to Wazoo owner Noelle Reed. At one time, Texas Property owned a lot on Ambassador Caffery Parkway, which it sold earlier this year.
About seven years ago, the former owner of Michael’s Ballroom decided to sell. The brothers seized the opportunity, buying the decaying building and changing the moniker of the business to Private Events. They also own the parking lot in the rear. “I’ve always said that this is the land of opportunity,” Mike says. “If you work and try hard, it’s going to happen. And, that’s what we did, with our parents’ support.”
On June 1, the brothers tackled the painstaking process of bringing the vacant building up to Metro Code standards, adding sprinklers, replacing electrical wiring and installing alarm systems. Next, they took on the aesthetic part of the process. “The idea with Private Events was to upgrade this building with an elegant look to add to what the city is doing to the downtown area,” Nidal explains.
The Qamhiyehs repainted the outside with warm colors selected by Nidal. Louisiana’s signature fleurs de lis accent the exterior. Brand new custom-built doors are being installed at the front entrance.
Inside, the black-and-white tile floors were gutted and replaced with modern ceramic tile and wood. The interior was completely repainted in brown, beige and gold tones. All new lighting and a large chandelier will illuminate the room. A long, completely refurbished bar with a black granite counter top lines the south wall. A laundry room, storage rooms and rest rooms are located in the back area. In the rear is a spacious kitchen, which is in the process of being fully renovated with all-new equipment.
Leading upstairs via a new wooden staircase is the VIP area. This level will be fronted with glass, covered with plush carpet and topped with comfortable seating. Surrounding the second floor are two offices, bathrooms and a changing room with shower. A rear door opens to the balcony, which overlooks live entertainment venue Parc International.
Out back is a newly concreted parking lot with capacity for 20 cars. The back staircase is being refinished and repainted. Parking patrons will be able to access the building through the back door to the first level or the stairs leading to the second floor. The owners installed new lighting for the lot. “The safety of our customers is our primary concern,” Mike says.
This newly revamped facility holds up to 750 people for a variety of events, including family reunions, Mardi Gras balls, holiday parties, receptions, seminars and meetings. Tables and chairs are available on site. Already, Private Events has received bookings for birthday parties this fall and weddings in 2012. The official opening is tentatively slated for September.
For booking at Private Events, contact Nidal Qamhiyeh at (337) 501-3894.