BREAUX BRIDGE - A Los Angeles family with ties to the area plans to open a canoe and kayak adventure center, featuring rentals and shuttle service on the Bayou Teche.
The Bayou Teche Experience will be housed in an old bar at the foot of the historic bridge in downtown Breaux Bridge, said owner Ingo Werk.
Renovation work on the building, believed to be more than 100-years-old, will begin in November and a soft opening will be held around the New Year, Werk said.
Along with the old bar, Werk, 58, and his son, Cory Werk, 29, are purchasing a second building and a cabin, all of which are located on a 1/2-acre parcel of land that has 100 linear feet of riverfront property, Ingo Werk said.
Cory Werk, an outdoor enthusiast and lifelong athlete, will manage the shop and live in the cabin. Ingo Werk and his wife, Mary, whose mother was born in Breaux Bridge, will split their time between Los Angeles and Breaux Bridge.
“We think that location is perfect for what we want to do and what we want to do is perfect for that location,” Cory Werk said. “It’s been just wonderful to see how welcoming the community has been.”
The rental service will offer kayaks, canoes, pedal boats and paddle boards while the shuttle service component will target those who may already own canoes and kayaks, Ingo Werk said.
The shuttle service will whisk paddlers from the shop to points up or down the bayou, allowing paddlers to explore the winding waterway without having to worry about making it back to their vehicle, Cory Werk said.
For instance, paddlers could begin in Arnaudville, stop at the shop and grab lunch at Café Des Amis and then continue paddling to St. Martinville.
“We will come and pick you up,” Cory Werk said.
Dona Degatur Richard, tourist director for St. Martin Parish, said the shuttle service component is likely to draw a lot of attention.
“It’s something that this whole area has lacked,” Richard said. “I don’t think there could be a better place for them to? be located.”
Richard said the new business is also an affirmation of the hard work done by several groups overseeing revitalization efforts along the Bayou Teche, including Cajuns for Bayou Teche, which has held large clean-up events along the waterway, and Tour Du Teche, a 135-mile canoe and kayak race from Port Barre to Berwick that serves as a public awareness campaign for the waterway.
The Werks, who participated in the recent cleanup, said the push to reclaim the waterway encouraged them to make the purchase.
“We see that community effort to clean it up and we want to be part of it,” Ingo Werk said. “It’s in our best interest and we feel it’s in the community’s best interest.”
The Werks said they will also work with St. Landry, St. Martin, Iberia and St. Mary, the four parishes that share Bayou Teche, to help establish better infrastructure that will make the waterway more user-friendly.
“If all the entities come together, I think we can really make it happen,” Ingo Werk said.
The business also plans to turn some of its attention to European tourists, Ingo Werk said.
The German-born Ingo Werk said he and his son speak the major European languages, which he believes will be a major selling point for tourists.
“We want to point them to the region because it is so unique,” Ingo Werk said, listing the area’s rich culture, its scenic attractions and its culinary appeal.
Ingo Werk said he believes the business can attract eco-tourists and potentially change the face of tourism in the region.
“It’s a very, very unique place here,” Cory Werk said.
Cory Werk said his mother, an architect who will oversee the renovation, has always wanted to have some kind of a relationship with Breaux Bridge.
“Little did she know that it would turn out with her son moving here to open a business,” Cory Werk said.