ST. FRANCISVILLE — Rae Lynn Thomas wanted to be the first customer at Audubon Market.
So, at precisely 7 a.m. on July 29, she walked through the automatic sliding door as the first customer in St. Francisville’s new grocery store.
“Wow,” Thomas said as she looked around.
The new facility has been a hub of activity since, with customers coming steadily from around the region to see what the fuss is about.
“We’re super, super proud, the parish and community has come out and supported us,” said Lisa LeBlanc, who is part of the family that owns the new market.
Audubon Market sits on a 3 1/2-acre site next to the Best Western in the Live Oak Centre and cost more than $3 million to build. The store has 35,000 square feet under roof and includes 25,000 square feet of retail space.
LeBlanc said they’ve added at least 20 more employees.
With so much more space, the store has expanded to include at least 1,200 new products and now offers a salad bar; freshlymade sushi; breakfast and lunches; a flower shop; an expanded bakery; and drinks like shakes, smoothies and coffee drinks.
Near the entrance, people can eat meals they purchase in the store.
“If there’s something we don’t have, people can ask us and we’ll try to add it,” said LeBlanc.
The Audubon Market is owned by John and Deana David, Lisa and Mike LeBlanc, Darrell and Glinda David and Richard and Wanda Jarreau.
John and Deana David have worked in the grocery and convenience store business for much of their adult lives. After moving from New Orleans to New Roads, they operated convenience stores in Livonia and Plaquemine, eventually selling them. They opened their first grocery known as “the little store” in St. Francisville on La. 10 in November 1989 and later bought “the big store” that anchors the strip center across the street in May 1999.
In 2004, the little store joined the Associated Grocers co-op.
Darrell David said Associated Grocers periodically runs surveys of local shopping trends and one survey indicated people from West Feliciana Parish did roughly 40 percent of their buying outside of the parish.
“We’re hoping they won’t have to go anywhere else to get what they want or need,” David said.
Lisa LeBlanc said the “little store” has closed, and the building and land will be sold to West Feliciana Parish. The family still owns the big store that anchors the strip center, which they said will remain open.
However, it will receive a new façade, the parking lot will be repaved and eventually sell grocery items more in bulk.
During the first week of business for Audubon Market, David said visitors came from as far away as Livonia and Morganza, New Roads, southern Mississippi, Clinton and Jackson.