“Lean In” Discussion Panel: Women in Business

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Top Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg made a splash and started a movement with the publication of her bestselling business book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. We’re taking a page out of her book and hosting a “Lean In” discussion panel at the Main Library at Goodwood at 7 p.m. next Wednesday, January 14.

The panel will feature a group of female leaders who will give their own interpretation of “leaning in” and give insight into their experiences as women in business. The discussion will be followed by a question-and-answer period with the audience. Refreshments will be served.

Panel members include:

Dr. Candace Collins, Eye Medical Center

Ophthalmologic Surgeon and Cataracts and Eye Muscles Specialist

Jill Rigby Garner, Manners of the Heart

Nonprofit Founder/Executive Director

Dima Ghawi, IBM

Talent Development Manager

Heather Howle, West Feliciana Middle Schools

Middle School Science teacher with a focus in STEM

Czarina Walker, InfiniEdge Software, Inc.



Business Persons of the Month: Marcy LeBlanc & Randy LeBlanc

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Business Person(s) of the Month: Marcy LeBlanc & Randy LeBlancleblanc-grocery

Position:  Co-owners

Company:  LeBlanc Food Stores

“We strictly believe in customer service. You’ve gotta love it, this business, and it’s gotta be in your blood. Customer service has always been a passion of ours – a passion that began with our grandfather and our father.”

Marcy and Randy LeBlanc, co-owners of LeBlancs Food Stores chain, are bringing their Frais Marche (Fresh Market) grocery store concept to Baton Rouge. The store will be opening in the Drusilla Village Shopping Center at the end of February 2015. Their family has been in the grocery business for more than a century and currently has two stores in Gonzales, and one each in Prairieville, Zachary, Donaldsonville, Plaquemine, Plattenville, and Hammond.

The opportunity to establish a fresh market store in Baton Rouge came about when the supermarket space in the Drusilla Shopping Center became available. Plans to remodel and expand the space (from 19,000 square feet to 30,000) are well underway. “This store takes ideas from our family, customers, employees, and vendors over the past fifty years and combines them into something we believe the community can be proud of.”

The Frais Marche concept includes emphasis on fresh food departments that consumers are drawn to these days while still offering the traditional supermarket variety that consumers need when they make shopping trips. These stores emphasize organic produce, prepared foods and specialty Cajun meat dishes. “It has all of the staples that customers expect to find in a supermarket, plus some lagniappe — or something extra — which you will find throughout our perishable departments,” said Marcy LeBlanc. “In other words, it’s the best of both worlds under one roof!”

As third generation retail operators of LeBlanc’s Food Stores, Randy LeBlanc says it was easy for the two brothers to stay in the family business. “Besides, our grandfather and father were both great teachers of retailing.” Marcy and Randy LeBlanc grew up in the grocery business from a very early age. From the time they could walk and talk, they were stocking shelves or operating cash registers, so it was a natural progression for them to evolve into the business.

“People gotta eat,” Marcy says. “We sell product people need, not just product they want.  When there’s a downturn, people have a tendency to gather more around the home and family, and in south Louisiana the meal is a big part of that gathering.”

It’s a family business that has come full circle. The brother’s great grandfather, M.P. LeBlanc, owned and operated a store in the late 1800s located in Smoke Bend, near Donaldsonville, which technically makes the brothers the fourth generation of grocers in the LeBlanc family.

In 1961, their grandfather, L.C. LeBlanc, opened the first LeBlanc’s Food Stores in Gonzales. His son, M. Paul LeBlanc, took over the business and later opened a second store in Paincourtville, with the help of his sons Marcy and Randy. LeBlanc’s sold the original Gonzales store location in 1997 and reopened at a new larger more modern location in Gonzales. Marcy and Randy relocated the Paincourtville store to Donaldsonville in 2005. In 2013, the LeBlanc family opened up their first store from the ground up since the original store was built. It’s called LeBlanc’s Frais Marche and it is located in Gonzales.

“This Baton Rouge location honors our past, particularly our grandfather L.C. LeBlanc and our father M. Paul LeBlanc, while embracing the future,” said Randy LeBlanc. “When our grandfather opened LeBlanc’s in 1961 he strived for four things from his store — excellent customer service, quality products, competitive prices, and a large variety of products.” LeBlanc’s Frais Marche is taking these original principles and making them even better.

All five of the brothers’ children have joined the family business. Marcy’s three sons, Marcy LeBlanc, Jr., Matthew LeBlanc, and Lee LeBlanc, as well as Randy’s two daughters, Brooke LeBlanc Knight and Brittney LeBlanc. “Passing the torch is definitely in the foreseeable future,” says Marcy. “The idea of going to a fifth generation is kind of off the charts and exciting for us.”

According to Marcy, the number one market challenge is finding personnel willing to work. “We don’t work real hard” he says, “we just work often.” They are also coping with the business-wide issue of ballooning inflationary costs and competition. LeBlanc considers Louisiana’s joy of living a definite market advantage. “We are unique. Our love of good cooking is such an integral part of the socialization of Louisianans,” he says. “You can’t have a gathering without someone cooking something, and we do our best to have what they’re looking to cook.”

Associated Grocers is one of the keys to their success. LeBlanc’s Food Stores are members of Associated Grocers, Inc., the area’s largest distributor of products to retail grocers. The co-op of approximately 200 retailers banded together in the 1950s for the common purpose of buying better. This association allows grocers to buy in bigger quantities and at better costs and then pass it on to their customers. Associated Grocers has been dedicated to the survival and success of the independent retail grocer for over 65 years.

M.P. Le BlancThe LeBlancs advise other business owners to be adaptable and current with the times, when starting a business. Fifteen years ago, Marcy LeBlanc says he wasn’t sure they’d stay in business as Wal-Mart entered small-town America, but those fears eased when it became apparent the competition was only a “price retailer.” To counter, he says they successfully “shined up” and applied the same market basics as their father and grandfather: excellent customer service, quality products, competitive prices, and a large variety of products. “We dug in and adapted,” LeBlanc says. “We consider ourselves a hybrid grocery retailer. Our eight, soon to be nine, locations allow us to operate as an efficient, well-run, multi-store chain, but with the flexibility and local hometown personality of an independent. We put considerable amount of effort into adjusting to the needs of our customers in each of the areas we serve.”

The LeBlancs see Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas (Livingston, Ascension, Iberville) being inclusive of each other. It’s not uncommon now for people to work and live in different parishes. “We hope that Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas continue a slow growth with the development of downtown Baton Rouge playing a key role in that growth. We are excited to be a part of this growth. The industrial boom we are currently experiencing should help to keep great residents in our state while attracting new employees to Louisiana.”

Louisiana people don’t just cook to eat, they cook for an experience. Food is such an important aspect in Louisiana. Some almost consider it a religion. It showcases our history, passion, diversity, and love. “We hope Baton Rouge residents continue their love for food. We love how rich and diverse our Louisiana culture is and it comes out in the food people prepare and eat here. We love having a Louisiana business that embraces our past while looking forward to our future. It’s so interesting to hear customers talk about what they are cooking — from traditional Louisiana favorites to health-conscious entrees.”

Marcy LeBlanc graduated from East Ascension High School in 1978 and attended Louisiana State University (LSU) from 1979 to 1980. He is a member of the Reeves Supermarket Board of the Directors as well as the Board for United Community Bank. He is active in the Gonzales Rotary Club and the Knights of Columbus. Randy LeBlanc graduated from East Ascension in 1975 and LSU in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science in Management. He serves on the Associated Grocers Board of Directors and is very involved with Dreams Come True. In addition, LeBlanc’s Food Stores assist numerous organizations each year, especially the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, Child Advocacy Services, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the Alzheimer’s Association of Louisiana. Le Blanc Family 4229

The LeBlanc brothers typically read business journals and grocery magazines to stay up-to-date on all the latest trends and new products. For leisure, they both enjoy downloading electronic books and reading various types of fiction suspense novels. If they aren’t in the stores working, they can usually be found spending time with their grandkids. They both also enjoy attending LSU football and basketball games. When vacationing, Marcy enjoys camping while Randy enjoys the beach.

Randy and Marcy’s father, M. Paul LeBlanc, always told his children, “Work hard in life everyday and you will move up.” That is what the LeBlanc brothers have done.


Business Person of the Month Feature

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Do you own your own business? Do you want others to know about it? We can help! The East Baton Rouge Parish Library publishes a regular feature called “Business Person of the Month” (BPOM) on this very blog that showcases small business owners.

Businesses can include sole or multiple ownership (such as a family run operation) located in or around the city of Baton Rouge. In the past, we have featured many local artists, entrepreneurs, and restaurateurs who call Baton Rouge their home.

If you would like to be featured, or if you would like to nominate someone, please send an email to eref@ebrpl.com and include your name (or nominee), phone number, and email address. Please also include a brief description of your business.

For more information, call Anne Lemmon at 231-3750.

To view previous BPOM articles, you may visit here.

Business Person of the Month: Amy Traylor

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The Buddy Loft

Amy Traylor, Owner
711 Jefferson Hwy. #5
Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm


Favorite Quote: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Emerson

The Buddy Loft, open since November 2013, is a specialty store that caters to the needs of “pets and their people.” Owner Amy Traylor named the store after her basset hound Buddy to honor his memory and to help people connect with and care for their animal friends.

buddy-loft-2Traylor adopted Buddy in the summer of 2011 and cared for him until he passed away from cancer a year and a half later. He was a friendly dog who loved to jump, twirl, and cuddle. Buddy spent a lot if time at the Cane’s Dog Park on Burbank often stopping for anyone who took time to give him attention. Even though Buddy is no longer with us, his spirit is alive at the Buddy Loft.

The Buddy Loft is not your typical pet store. The store’s inventory is eclectic, always changing as Amy finds new vendors and items. The shelves are stocked with many locally made items and if an item cannot be found locally, special orders are accepted. The store offers organic treats for pets, toys for children and dogs, and t-shirts and jewelry with animal themes for adults. The Buddy Loft also carries blankets and throws, pillows, towels, mugs, Christmas ornaments, and other home decorations that showcase the love of animals.

Amy and her family moved from Houston to Lecompte, Louisiana (near Alexandria), when she was seven to help with a family restaurant, Lea’s. Opened by Amy’s grandfather in 1928, Lea’s is well known for its southern comfort, down-home cooking. Amy’s grandparents ran the restaurant – they cooked, served, cleaned and did anything else that needed to be done. The plan was for the family to stay a year and help the family through a crisis but they never left. Both of Amy’s brothers are still in the restaurant business.

As a child, Amy always wanted to own her own business. She liked to play shopkeeper when she was young; she even had her own toy cash register. Amy’s work career began in the hospitality business and while working for someone else, her “entrepreneur voice” was screaming to get out.

Before she opened the Buddy Loft, Amy did a lot of market research on pet stores, pet products and people, pets, and toys. Although there are a lot of websites on how to set up a small business, she relied mostly on books for research. Amy studied business plans and books on running a business and how to make it work. She also found books on how to lay out the shop to its best advantage. Amy visited several grooming stores, pet stores, and “big box” stores with pet sections in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas. She studied what they offered and discovered that there wasn’t a store in the area exclusively catering to pets and their owners. It was then that Amy decided to open The Buddy Loft.

Being raised in a small business atmosphere gave Amy a first-hand look at their role in the community. She believes that small businesses are the backbone of the community and it is vital for the city to support them. Amy sees the community as an extended family that cares about each other. Since moving to Baton Rouge in 2002, Amy considers this her home and couldn’t imagine opening her business anywhere else.

Art is very important to Amy including her hobby of photography which allows her to look at the world through a camera lens and see things she did not realize were there. Amy is supportive of all arts (music, visual, literature). She owns a painting of Buddy done by Simon Baxter, a local artist who specializes in pet portraits. The Buddy Loft also carries art work by local artists.

As a child, Amy remembers growing up with her mother reading to her and spending summers at the library. To share her love of reading, Amy started a “little free library” in her neighborhood and encourages others to do so.

Business Person of the Month: Anne Milneck

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­Red Stick Spice Co.
Anne Milneck, Owner
7970 Jefferson Hwy.
Baton Rouge, LA


Monday through Friday, 10:30 am – 5:30 pm

Saturday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm


“People who love to eat are always the best people.”

 – Julia Child

Red Stick Spice Company gives its customers the personal attention they expect and deserve and offers products ranging from spices to blends and rubs, from olive oils and vinegars to high-quality loose tea.  They sell the best spice blends from local chefs, award-winning grill masters, regional farmers, and they even blend some of their own. Red Stick Spice Company captures the delicious, unique flavors of our region. “Food is our passion,” says owner Anne Milneck. “In South Louisiana, we’re lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of bountiful produce and fresh seafood, and it’s important that it’s seasoned to perfection.”

Milneck is originally from LaPlace, Louisiana, and has made Baton Rouge her home for more than 20 years. She studied journalism at LSU and earned a culinary degree from the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in 2010. While her children were still at home, Anne launched a small catering business called “Lunch Lady” that specialized in gourmet boxed lunches. When the opportunity arose to purchase the Red Stick Spice Co., it was a no-brainer. “I’m a trained chef, but working in a restaurant wasn’t a good fit for my family. I work around the things I love (food) but in a less stressful environment.”

Red Stick Spice Company already had a reputation for offering a variety of high-quality spices, teas, oils, and vinegars. Anne says one of the most appealing features of the store is its ability to provide the exact amount of spice that a customer wants. And she’ll let you taste it, too. To ensure the freshness and quality of the products she sells, she doesn’t keep large amounts in stock. For the most part, what you see on the shelf is what is available.

Since buying the store, Milneck has added more spice mixes, including a few she combines on-site. Her Bayou Lafourche blend combines bay leaf and filé along with salt, garlic, granulated onion, and other dry spices. She also prepares classic French herb blends, herbes de Provence, bouquets garnis and fines herbes. She has increased the number of chili offerings for fans of spicy food, and she has a revolving list of barbecue rubs that complement seasonal foods.  Anne is also looking to add more organic spice offerings as they come available. The store also stocks award-winning loose teas along with 15 new varieties.

Red Stick Spice Company sells infused olive oils from small family farms in California, including garlic and jalapeno. The herb or vegetable is pressed in the same press as the olives, resulting in a deeper and richer flavor than simply letting a garlic clove float around in a bottle. “The difference between olive oil here and olive oil from a grocery store is huge.  A lot of olive oils are actually oil blends, not 100 percent olive.” The store also carries extra virgin olive oils, flavored oils, and avocado oil.

Anne sees small business as the key to securing the lost art of close, personal attention while shopping. “My business doesn’t move at warp speed nor is high volume a priority. For every customer to receive the attention they need, it takes time.  We spend that time with each customer.  Small businesses also play a role in helping each other. We recommend other small business to our customers – and other small businesses do the same. In this way, we create a supportive web encouraging customers to shop local.” Milneck would love to see more movement of small business into Mid-City and Downtown. “Those are areas that I’d love to see grow into communities where residents can shop, eat, and play without leaving their neighborhood and I would love to be a part of that.”

For Anne, it’s important that owners participate in every aspect of the business – sales, purchasing, stocking, and even janitorial work. “When you’re willing to do any task, you learn more about your business – and it shows.  Customers can tell if you’re fully committed. One challenge Milneck encountered was finding the right people to work in the store. However, she now has a great group of people who love working with customers. Helping customers make the most of their purchases and their time in the kitchen is Anne’s main goal. For Anne, cooking represents happiness and family and comfort and joy. She wants everyone to feel the same way when they step up to the stove.