East side Wal-Mart spurs traffic, business on Grand Caillou Road

The Tri-Parish Times, 25th November, 2005

L.J. Naquin hasn't been pleased with the restaurant choices on the eastside of Houma and often skips lunch because he doesn't care much for the food. He said he's heard others express the same concerns.

Naquin said his only solution to the problem was to build a restaurant of his own with a variety of food choices that would include sandwiches plate lunches.

"There's always a need for a restaurant with freshly-made food because it gives people other choices besides a lot of fast food places," Naquin said. "I also like the fact that I can know eat what I want to eat."

When Naquin opens Nocko's Deli on Wednesday, it will be just one of many businesses that have blossomed on Grand Caillou Road during the past two plus years since Wal-Mart Supercenter opened on the east Houma corridor.

Mart Black, Terrebonne Parish economic development supervisor, said Wal-Mart has attracted more shoppers, which has increased traffic flow and makes it a beneficial area for new businesses to grow. Naquin believes the businesses also benefit from Grand Caillou, Dulac and Theriot residents who must travel the highway to get to east or west Houma.

"The additional traffic Wal-Mart has generated may attract more businesses relying on highway areas for profit," Black said. "Grand Caillou Road is not a downtown area, so there's no pedestrian traffic. The businesses will probably not cater as much to pedestrians as some parts of west Houma would."

Black said before the mega-department store's presence anchored the east Houma passageway, many firms in the area opened and closed or relocated often. He said as more businesses open and remain on Grand Caillou Road, it will be a true test as to whether or not population generated by Wal-Mart has significantly influenced the success of other businesses.

Shops in front of Wal-Mart including Whataburger, Dollar Tree, Cato's Junior/Misses Plus and Payless Shoe Source have benefited from the supercenter, as well as new businesses at the nearby Lynn Shopping Center that include Extreme Fitness and Extreme Smoothies, which has a drive thru window. Body Elite East health and fitness gym also recently opened in the mall.

"So far, businesses have done well, and it's been beneficial for the city and the parish," Black said. "It gives the people of Houma and those coming into Houma more places to shop at and generates more sales-tax revenue for the local government. It‘s a plus."

Like Naquin, other business owners have seized the opportunity to take advantage of the new hot spot for businesses. Mom's Sno-Balls owners Richard and Christine Hebert moved closer to Wal-Mart in 2002, hoping to increase sales. The shop had been previously located in a smaller building at less active area on Grand Caillou Road.

"It's a big plus for us," Christine Hebert said. "People are coming out of the Wal-Mart shoot and they are hot. They see snowballs on the sign and will stop over here. You can buy just about anything you want in Wal-Mart, but they don't sell snowballs."

Ed Herron said while he didn't chose to open Le Grande Coffee Shop and Restaurant this upcoming November because of Wal-Mart's impact on businesses along Grand Caillou Road, he doesn't mind being helped a bit by the increasing shoppers.

"They've been needing a good donut shop here for a long time, that's all," said Herron, who has owned and operated coffee and donut shops in west Houma for more than 40 years. "This business will do exceptionally well, and the area will pick up a whole lot with Wal-Mart in the area. It's created a new spurt with businesses that cannot be overlooked."

A new Chinese restaurant will be opening in the coming months where the old McDonald's used to be located; a car wash recently opened along the highway; and Naquin said more businesses are sure to pop up in the coming years.

Besides his new deli, Naquin also owns Nocko's Shopping Center, where he has seen gasoline and grocery sales increase drastically since Wal-Mart became the landmark on Grand Caillou Road.

"I think you'll see many different business open and do exceptionally well, and shoppers will have many choices to shop," Naquin said. "This is just the beginning. I think Grand Caillou is the best place for any business right now. If you can't make it here, you will never make it."