When you head into Jeanerette you know the red light outside of LeJeune’s Bakery can only mean only one thing, fresh french bread. Opened in 1884, and in its fifth generation, LeJeune’s has continued the baking tradition for nearly 135 years!
“It’s the same recipe and we still do it the same way,” says worker Carl Lajaunie. “Everything is by hand.”
Lajaunie has been working at LeJeune’s for over 15 years and says there’s only one reason he’s stuck around for so long.
Matt LeJeune is the fifth generation to run the bakery. And in those five generations, the only real change made to the bakery is how they power the machinery.
“It was run on steam,” says LeJeune. “Before electricity, there was one steam engine. Everything was run on one steam engine.”
At the age of six, LeJeune says he began working at the bakery with his dad.
“I used to come in here and I would push this when I was about 7 or 8 years old to make the equipment run,” LeJeune recalls while demonstrating. “Put my foot on this to make the machinery work.”
Just four employees run the bakery, with each loaf being made with special care. The loaves are carefully measured out to 16 ounces and then bagged by hand after coming out of the oven. The four then make their deliveries, the bakery’s distribution area isn’t very wide.
“Thirty-five-mile range,” says LaJeune. “Because of the shelf life, every third day we change out the bread.”
But it’s not just the french bread. LeJeune’s also offers a few other hand-made products.
Hot dog buns, poboy buns, hot links, hamburgers, and ginger cakes are baked-up every day for customers.
Once the light is on, people start coming in for bread fresh out of the oven. And locals aren’t the only ones who have been pulled in by LeJeune’s warm loaves. People from all over the world have made stops at the bakery.
“We have a guest book in the front,” says LeJeune. “We get guests from France and Spain.”