PRAIRIEVILLE — When Delaune family members opened a seafood restaurant in Prairieville seven years ago, they shopped for decor from antique stores and rural shops “to see what spoke to us,” said Chalin Delaune.
The family was going for a vintage rustic look, he said, and one of their finds was an old Esso gas sign in good shape.
“There’s so much history behind these things. It’s like a dollar bill — you don’t know where it’s been,” he said.
Esso is the acronym for Standard Oil Company, founded by John D. Rockefeller and partners in 1870.
The Delaunes’ Esso sign hung on the exterior of their Tommy’s Fish House restaurant on Perkins Road in Prairieville for seven years — until the sign was stolen this month.
The restaurant’s surveillance camera captured the image of a man with a power drill removing the sign on a Sunday night when the business was closed. The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office has made one arrest and is searching for the man in Denham Springs who purchased the stolen sign, valued at $1,500.
“We bought the Esso at an antique market in Denham Springs. It’s actually funny that it’s back in Denham Springs now,” Delaune said.
He believes the popularity of the “American Pickers” TV show on the History Channel, which follows a duo searching for great finds in out-of-the way places, may be bringing more attention — some of it unwelcome — to such antiques.
Chalin’s brother, Daniel Delaune, said residents who live near the restaurant called the family to tell them the old Esso sign had disappeared.
If the sign is returned to the restaurant, it will be coming back to changes after the first of the new year. The Delaune family, Tommy and Maria Delaune and their four sons, Ryan, Shawn, Chalin and Daniel, along with business partner Kenny Carr, recently added a front porch for outdoor seating, and they’re making interior renovations and expanding the menu, as well.
Meanwhile, the hunt is on for the antique Esso sign and the man who purchased it.
The man accused of stealing the sign, Chad Prejean, 35, of 18648 Cale Drive, Livingston, was booked Dec. 11 into Ascension Parish Jail on a count of theft of a valuable worth more than $750 but less than $5,000, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release.
Prejean, who remains in jail, told deputies he sold the sign to Michael Wilkinson, 39, of 24617 Walker South Road, Denham Springs, said Lt. Col. Bobby Webre with the Sheriff’s Office.
Wilkinson later told detectives he had bought the sign and promised to return it by Dec. 22, but never did, Webre said in a news release.
Detectives have been unable to locate Wilkinson, who is now wanted for illegal possession of stolen things, Webre said.
Wilkinson also is wanted by Ascension Parish authorities on an active bench warrant for traffic violations and a criminal non-support warrant in another jurisdiction, according to the news release.
Anyone with information on Wilkinson’s whereabouts is asked to call the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office at (225) 621-4636, text 847411 or call Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867. For callers to be eligible for a cash reward, they must contact Crime Stoppers immediately.