Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Morvant’s Bar & Grill - Formerly Bero's Youngsville Louisiana - Interview - 97 Year History

Morvant's Bar and Grill - Youngsville Louisiana

"...a cold beer and eat a hamburger or a fried shrimp po-boy or a tray of boiled crawfish and hit the dance floor while the Cajun band “Alligator Blue” performs “Tee Na Na” at Morvant’s Bar and Grill in Youngsville Louisiana.." (Interviewed Chip Hebert about the history of Morvant's Bar and Grill, formerly Bero's, established in 1924 in Youngsville Louisiana.  Cajun food, cold beer, dancing.)

Morvant’s Bar and Grill - Formerly Bero's Youngsville Louisiana - 97 Year History

Cajuns dancing at Morvant's Bar and Grill
Morvant's hamburger
Morvant's cold beer
Morvant's boiled crawfish
Morvant's fried shrimp po-boy

At times, non-south Louisiana blog readers turn to my blog in hopes of discovering an authentic south Louisiana experience.  There isn’t a more authentic south Louisiana experience than to down a cold beer and eat a hamburger or a fried shrimp po-boy or a tray of boiled crawfish and hit the dance floor while the Cajun band “Alligator Blue” performs “Tee Na Na” at Morvant’s Bar and Grill in Youngsville Louisiana.

When I realized I would write about Morvant’s, I contacted my friend Debbie Burley who helped me recall going there in the late 1960s.  Was Morvant’s the place where we ate hamburgers when we went horseback riding?  It was, Debbie said, but in those days it was called Bero’s.  (Debbie reminded me we also went to the Saloon and to Nook’s Place.)

I contacted my sister Yvonne whose memory is better than mine.  Do you remember eating hamburgers at Bero’s in Youngsville when we were kids?  Yes, we rode horses there.

I contacted my brother David who knows everyone.  Are you familiar with Morvant’s in Youngsville, it used to be called Bero’s?  Yes, Chip Hebert is a friend, I’ll send you his cell phone number.

I chit-chatted with Elton “Chip” Hebert whose parents Elton and Ruby Hebert owned Morvant’s Bar and Grill, formerly Bero’s, and with Chip’s help and that of the Youngsville Historical Preservation Society, compiled the following history:

Moise Morvant's Grocery and Bar with pool table
Moise Morvant in front of his store

In 1924, Moise Morvant and his wife Gertrude opened a grocery store on Lafayette Street in the town of Youngsville.  Their store was next door to Gertrude’s parent’s home, which was built in 1883, and in which Moise and Gertrude lived.  To compete with other grocers, the Morvant’s rearranged the store so customers could enjoy booze, shoot pool, and play cards.  Insightfully, Gertrude decided to serve the newfangled dish called hamburger, for which she concocted a special recipe, and which she cooked on an electric grill.

Their business survived the Great Depression, but in 1940, while Moise and Gertrude attended the horse races at the New Orleans’s Fairgrounds, their store burned down.  Certain the fire would spread to the family’s home, neighbors helped to carry out furniture.  The re-built store was moved across the street after a bank purchased the original lot.

After Moise Morvant’s death, Gertrude leased the store to a series of tenants, one of whom was Albert “Bero” Hebert who confiscated Gertrude Morvant’s hamburger recipe, and whose business acumen caused the hamburger to become known beyond the town of Youngsville.  Upon Bero's retirement, Elton and Ruby Hebert, Chip Hebert’s parents, entered into a lease purchase arrangement with Gertrude Morvant and changed the establishment’s name from Bero’s to Morvant’s Bar and Grill.

Elton and Ruby Hebert

Virginia Billeaud Anderson: Chip, Your dad Elton Hebert passed away last year, and your mom Ruby Hebert retired. Who runs Morvant’s Bar and Grill?

Chip Hebert: We do.  Me, and my sister Candy, and my sister Angel.  We’re all owners. We all worked there when we were young, we all flipped burgers, and learned the business.  At any time one of us could step in and take the other’s place.  For the most part, Candy runs Morvant’s in Youngsville.  She handles the meat, Candy mixes all the meat.  My part is to do the crawfish.  I have a crawfishing business and supply the crawfish we boil and sell.  I also have a small construction and dirt moving business.  Dad let all of us use the Morvant name, and all of us can use the burger recipe.  So together, we own Morvant’s in Youngsville.  Angel opened another Morvant’s in New Iberia, but she moved on from that, Angel’s husband is in oil and gas, and they moved to Houston, but they returned, and now she has Morvant’s Grill-Mobile, a food truck with hamburgers, po-boys, hot meals, salads.  Candy opened Morvant’s III in Broussard, and still has that.

VBA: Youngsville is significantly changed since I knew it over 50 years ago.   Back then, it was a small country town, many of the roads were still unpaved.  And you occasionally saw a sugar cane wagon pulled by a mule instead of a tractor.  The town had no Library building.  I remember Mrs. David had a library in her home, so people could borrow books.  It floored me to see all the growth, new subdivisions.

CH: The town was growing, and my Dad saw that.  For instance, he saw the demand for boiled crawfish.  When I was a senior in high school, maybe a college freshman, Dad built the boiling room.  It was the same with my dirt moving and construction business, Dad recognized the need.  He led me into the business and I worked with him.  Dad wasn’t afraid of work, he worked.  Dad’s been gone almost a year and a half now, Ruby retired in 2016.  Mom was one of the faces people came to see, when they came to eat.  Actually, about the time Youngsville was really growing, they were slowing down.  We took it over while dad was sick, we all worked together.

VBA: Gertrude Morvant lived to be 100 years old.  Surely you knew her.

CH: Yes, when I was a kid, Mrs. Morvant lived across the street from the bar, and she would order a hamburger and it was my job to deliver it.  Dad would tell me not to collect because he had a lease purchase agreement, don’t charge her for the burger.  In those days the hamburger cost about $2.50, and after I didn’t charge her, Mrs. Morvant would tip me about $3, which was something.

VBA: Essentially, Bero made Gertrude Morvant’s hamburger well known.

CH: Bero and his wife Effie.  My older sister Candy worked for Bero when she was a teenager.  When Candy was 18 or 19, I’m not sure what age, she helped Bero and Effie, they worked in the kitchen together, and Candy learned the burger recipe.  So Bero and Effie passed on the recipe to Candy and to my dad.  Dad was a cousin of Bero, I think his second cousin.

It was Bero who made the place a hot-spot.  When Bero had it, Youngsville was just a farm town.  He made the place popular.  Bero modeled his business on the Judice Inn in Lafayette which served burgers, beer, chips, and coke.  People started coming, oil field guys.  They would drive from their Lafayette Oil Center offices for a burger and a beer, start enjoying themselves, and stay until 10 pm in the evening.  People called Bero’s the “Poor Man’s Petroleum Club.”

Bero liked his beer, but he wasn’t afraid of work, like my dad.  His wife Effie also made Bero’s a hot spot.  Effie attracted customers.  When I was a kid, Effie always gave me 5 or 6 pickles on a tooth pick.  Dad liked to sit at Bero’s bar and visit and drink beer.  People asked him why he bought the place.  When Bero had it, Dad told people, I was here drinking every night, so I bought it.  The fact is, he saw an opportunity.

Addendum - Two days after I posted this interview, my friend Debbie Burley shared a memory. "When Bero got out of the bar and burger business, he threw a big party with a band, and invited everyone to be his guest to dance and enjoy until the bar's beer coolers were empty.  We were dancing and the center beam of the old building broke.!  Floor dropped about 2 inches, everybody felt it, and we just kept on dancing.  I used to enjoy going into the bathroom and seeing my grandmother's bathroom sink proudly mounted in Bero's ladies' room.  Bero took it out of her house before the house was torn down for the cypress wood.  Elton Hebert's kids did major improvements and additions to the old place, and of course replaced the sink.  Candy told me however that if she had known it was from my grandmother's house, she would have kept it for me.  I cherish the memories of my youth and consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to grow up fearing only my Mother and God.  The history of Youngsville and Broussard needs to be preserved for our children and grandchildren."

Morvant’s Bar and Grill
200 Lafayette St.
Youngsville, Louisiana

Images from Morvant’s Bar and Grill facebook and Youngsville Historical Preservation Society

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