Roussel saying goodbye to the business he built

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 1999

DEBORAH CORRAO / L’Observateur / August 18, 1999

Jessie Roussel opened a little antique store in LaPlace in 1976 to supplement his income.

He had retired after 22 years of coaching the Destrehan High School football team with a recent state title under his belt.

“I got interested in antiques because of my son Neil,” Roussel says. “Heand I would go out on weekends to look at antiques.”As a matter of fact, when Roussel’s Antiques opened in LaPlace, 17-year- old Neil was his father’s business partner.

The business quickly grew thanks in part to Jessie’s knack for pleasing his customers.

“Customers who bought furniture from me felt like they were investing rather than spending,” says Jessie Roussel. “People drove from all overthe place to my shop. They knew if they couldn’t find it in my store, we’dknow where to get it.”Twenty-three years and four stores later, Jessie Roussel is handing over the reins of his successful business to his children.

On the last day of August, Roussel will sell three of his stores, the ones in LaPlace, Gramercy and Boutte to another son, Chris. His daughter, JoellynPerkins, is buying the business in Gonzales, and son Neil will take over the location in Ponchatoula, the only store that still specializes in antiques.

“Antiques are getting scarce,” says Jessie Roussel. “We’re going moretoward reproduction furniture and accessories.”The new generation says they won’t be changing much about the business that caters to customers looking for unique gifts and jewelry, but those items will be the mainstay of the business now instead of antiques.

Chris, 38, was in his late teens when he went to work at the Gramercy store when it opened its doors in 1980.

“Chris came into the business to refinish furniture,” says Jessie Roussel.

“We opened in the old Western Auto building. We had a shop in the frontand we refinished furniture in the back.”Chris Roussel says his interests have changed, but he plans to keep doing business the way Daddy did it.

“People respect Jessie’s integrity and honesty,” says Earl Rodrigue, Chris’ brother-in-law and longtime Roussel’s employee who will be taking over the buying of giftware and jewelry under the new regime in Gramercy.

“People come to Roussel’s to find unique items, and they know they’re getting a good price.”Chris Roussel and Rodrigue say they will be expanding the jewelry end of the business in Gramercy, specializing in engagement rings and loose diamonds.

“Our stores have less overhead than the average jewelry store,” says Chris Roussel. “We won’t be undersold.”Chris, a jewelry designer, prides himself on the fact that Roussel’s has been named Louisiana’s Finest Designers for the past four years by the Jewelers of America for their “one-of-a-kind” jewelry.

Jessie Roussel, who plans to still visit the stores on a part-time basis after retirement, says he always enjoyed his work.

“It’s the type of business where you travel, you hunt antiques; the business is very versatile,” he says. “It was never boring. Every day, 24hours a day, there’s something different to do.”But now Roussel, 67, says it’s time for him to spend time with his 10 grandchildren and wife Jackie, who is retiring as bookkeeper for the business along with her husband. Chris’ wife Amber will be taking over thebooks.

At the Gonzales store, Joellyn’s husband, Summer, will be acting as manager, and Neil’s wife Lisa will assist her husband at the Ponchatoula location.

All in all, more than half of the approximately 50 people employed by the Roussels are family or family friends.

And Jessie Roussel credits much of the success of his business to his loyal employees. Several stores are still manned by the same people whoworked there when they opened their doors.

This week Roussel’s is holding a “Retirement Sale” in honor of Jessie Roussel. Customers can enjoy cake as they browse the shops for bargainson giftware, jewelry and furniture.

Earl Rodrigue says as the torch is passed to a new generation, he’s thankful for the knowledge he got from Jessie Roussel.

“Jessie did all the buying,” says Rodrigue. “It will be a very difficult taskto fill his shoes, but he’s given us an abundance of knowledge to serve the next generation of customers.”

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