This week’s What’s Your Story takes us to Lebeau in St. Landry Parish where a family legacy still serves the community.
Before the sign was even on we had ourselves a story.
For close to the last 100 years the name Stelly has hung above the town of Lebeau. Store owner Joel Stelly’s grandparents started the business, selling out of a little old store in the early 1920s.
Originally from closer to the river, the Stelly’s found themselves in Lebeau as a result of the flooding in the 1920s. The family quickly made the area their home.
“My grandmother moved here and she just started out making sandwiches,” says Stelly. “And it just evolved into the restaurant.
The store passed from his grandparents to his parents, and Joel remembers growing up in the store.
“We had on the restaurant side plenty of slot machines and back then we weren’t regulated so as kids we’d go around and not play them but look for change.”
Working at the store in high school, Joel slowly learned the store business eventually taking over from his parents.
“I knew that one day I’d probably end up back here,” he says. “It’s just worked out really good that I did choose this profession.”
And he’s kept with him some of the lessons passed on to him from his father and grandfather
Some of those lessons, Stelly says, is to treat everyone the same, refrain from prejudices, and remember that we are all made in God’s image.
The store keeps going despite corporate box stores or the building of I-49 serving as an oasis for weary travelers
“We get people from all over,” says Stelly. “Canada, all over, who come to Louisiana and this is just a good resting spot.”
The store also acts as a community center, bringing in locals who meet up almost every day in the restaurant to catch up on the latest news and events.
It’s also become a home for the people who have become part of the Stelly’s family.
“Ms. Leedee she just retired she’s at home now but she waited tables here until she was 89 years old,” says Stelly.
For those who go there for their groceries or enjoy the daily plate lunches, they can rest assured that Joel Stelly will keep the store going. He’s making sure the Stelly name will continue to hang above Lebeau for years to come.
“I still like working, I still like meeting everyone,” says Stelly. “I’ve got a couple of kids in college so I won’t be retiring anytime soon”
And if you’re looking for a reason to go visit, Joel says it best:
“We only have two registers, unlike Walmart who has 40, and they only have two open anyway.”
And tune in next week when we head to Acadia Parish.