New owners reimagine PJ’s Coffee in LaPlace

Published 12:20 am Saturday, December 29, 2018

LAPLACE — PJ’s Coffee of LaPlace will be almost unrecognizable in 2019 with new ownership, an overhaul of contemporary renovations and even better service.

Ali Vicknair, 19, became one of the youngest franchise owners in the U.S. this month when she purchased the LaPlace location along with her boyfriend, Evin Stein, and her father, Advanced Marketing & Promotions owner Wayne Vicknair.

The three share a goal to see PJ’s thrive as the melting pot of the community.

Evin, as majority owner, heads operations, HR and the overview of PJ’s, while Ali and Wayne share equal ownership stakes. Wayne is in charge of marketing and development, and Ali is in charge of marketing and social media.

Ali, who has been named a top 5 PJ’s LaPlace customer based on credit card transactions, has always dreamed of owning a coffee shop.

For more than eight years, she’s seen PJ’s as her sanctuary.

“In this parish, there weren’t many places where I felt like I could come and not have to worry about the chaos outside the doors,” Ali said. “My friends would always text me and ask if PJ’s was open or closed even though I didn’t work here. I always knew because I was constantly here.”

Wayne Vicknair, Evin Stein and Ali Vicknair are seen behind the counter at PJ’s Coffee in LaPlace, where they plan to incorporate a light lunch menu by early February.

According to Ali, PJ’s is a place where people can “come with a problem and leave with a purpose.”

Evin admires how PJ’s is a harbor for people from every walk of life, noting it isn’t uncommon to see veterans conversing at one table and a student typing away on a laptop at the next.

“As vice chairman of the Economic Development committee, I feel it is our duty as residents of St. John to continue to invest and build so we may continue to grow and thrive as the center of the River Region,” Evin said.

He looks forward to incorporating a light lunch menu as soon as early February, adding another low-cost meal option for St. John the Baptist Parish residents.

Necole Kelly, left, has worked at PJ’s in LaPlace for 15 years, while Jill Kelly, right, has worked for the past 11. The two veteran employees will continue to provide top notch service in 2019.

Evin has plans to regularly promote specials through social media and place more emphasis on drink options such as smoothies for non-coffee drinkers.

Though he shares ownership, Wayne said he thinks of Ali and Evin as the faces of the business.

“I think it’s especially commendable for two young people to invest in St. John the Baptist Parish and the River Region,” Wayne said. “We want to bring back some of the youth.”

Sleek renovations coming to every PJ’s by the end of 2019 provide a modern ambiance for customers of all ages, according to Wayne.

Ali Vicknair, Wayne Vicknair and Evin Stein discuss plans for the future. In 2019, all of the furniture, flooring, counters and decor will be exchanged for an updated look.

The owners plan to incorporate the new corporate model with updated flooring, counter space, window seating and USB electrical outlets by mid-2019.

Wayne said he wants to ensure PJ’s is open for years to come because there are few places in St. John where people can congregate without having to rent meeting rooms.

He would like to see more local organizations use PJ’s for evening meetings.

Wayne has fond memories of spending time with his children at PJ’s, and he wants the same experience for other parents.

Customer service is another priority, according to Ali.

Longtime employee Necole Kelly serves a drink and a snack to customer Nick Rose.

“PJ’s is getting a complete facelift, including the mentality of the workers,” Ali said. “If you thought you were getting good service before, now it’s even better.”

Employment opportunities are available.

For more information, email or visit PJ’s Coffee of LaPlace on Facebook and Instagram.

(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to list the share in ownership between the three owners and their individual job responsibilities.)