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Shreveport entrepreneurs keep beloved downtown cafe alive

by Associated Press

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Jacquelyn’s Cafe is under new ownership.

Don’t worry — the shrimp salad sandwich isn’t going anywhere.

After 35 years in the restaurant business, founders Jacquelyn and Jimmy Caskey have retired.

In 1983, Jacquelyn’s Cafe opened at 1324 Louisiana Ave. on the cusp of downtown Shreveport.

As of July 1, local entrepreneurs Andrew Crawford and Grant Nuckolls partnered to purchase the restaurant to preserve a bit of Shreveport’s dining history.

Crawford and Nuckolls offer their experience in the service industry and local business operations. Crawford is the owner of Rhino Coffee and Nuckolls is the owner of Twisted Root Burger Co. in Shreveport. However, navigating an existing business with a deep-seated customer base presents new challenges.

The top concern voiced by frequent diners of Jacquelyn’s Cafe is whether there will be drastic changes to the menu, staff, and original charm?

Crawford and Nuckolls assure this will not be the case.

“You’re buying a place with all this history and food popularity,” Nuckolls said. “You’d be a complete idiot to try to change. What I keep telling people is the three things that make this place… is food, atmosphere, and employees.”

Jacquelyn’s Cafe is known for its American fare and Louisiana classics. The menu will continue to offer diners’ favorites, such as the chicken salad sandwich, shrimp salad sandwich, chicken and sausage jambalaya, New England clam chowder, and German chocolate pie.

The dishes will stick to the original recipes Jacquelyn Caskey developed under the tutelage of famed Shreveport chefs Shorty Leonard and Deitmar Molitor.

And expect the same food quality and in-dining experience as before.

“Everything is made here. You won’t get anything frozen,” said manager Mitch Boudreaux. “Everything’s made from scratch and everyone likes that. Nothing’s too hard to make. It’s all basic ingredients and everyone loves that — and the atmosphere.”

The same staff will continue to serve — those who have become “the faces of Jacquelyn’s” over the years. Boudreaux, nephew of Jacquelyn Caskey, will maintain his position as manager. He’s been with the restaurant for 13 years and counting.

Tina Tasby and April Fried, who have been on staff for 33 years and 10 years, respectively, will retain their roles as wait staff.

Also, the restaurant’s name will stay the same.

“The name is important to us, the recipes are important to us, and the people are important to us. If we can keep all that intact that would be a home run,” Nuckolls said.

However, the restaurateurs are making necessary operational improvements.

The point-of-sale system has been updated — the antiquated cash register swapped out for a touchscreen Square credit card reader.

Plans to connect the restaurant with food delivery companies is underway.

There are discussions about expanding hours and days of operation. Currently, the cafe is only open for lunch.

And internet access will be added with Wi-Fi accessibility for customers.

Jacquelyn’s Cafe is highly-frequented by many regular customers who have patronized the restaurants for many years. The restaurateurs aim to appeal to a new and wider range of clientele demographics through boosting advertising efforts, enhancing social media presence, hosting events and giveaways, partnering with local businesses, and other methods to spread the word.

Crawford and Nuckolls have a history working together in the local business and entertainment circuit, but their decision to purchase the restaurant came independently of each other.

Earlier this year, news of the Caskeys’ retirement plans and pending restaurant closure began to circulate around town.

Crawford and Nuckolls each reached out to the Caskey family to discuss the option to buy — unknowing that the other was doing the same. Once aware of each other’s intentions and discovering they shared similar goals, they decided to collaborate once again.

Their passion ignited from having witnessed many longstanding, family-owned restaurants go out of business in the city. They dreaded the same ending for Jacquelyn’s Cafe.

“You see Murrell’s close, you see George’s close — you see all the old-school restaurants that have been here for so long start to close and it got me nervous,” Crawford said. “We’re losing a whole batch of restaurants.”

Acquiring Jacquelyn’s Cafe just may save the Shreveport gem from the same fate and keep it thriving for generations to come.

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