Marla runs the restaurant. Acy runs the boat. Despite Katrina's merciless attack as she made landfall in lower Plaquemines Parish, their home, the Coopers are all ready to make another go of it.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals was scheduled to visit Riverside Restaurant on Monday May 15 for an inspection. When they do open, Riverside will be the only restaurant for 25 miles.
Plaquemines Parish is a narrow stretch along the Mississippi River ending at the Gulf of Mexico. There is one road in and one road out. Venice, the Cooper's hometown, is at the end of that road. There is an occasional quick stop, but Riverside Restaurant is the real thing.
Meanwhile, Acy is out shrimping. Spring shrimp season just opened. He works from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Acy, III or Tres and his pal Jack work as deckhands. Right now the catch is pretty good, some thousand pounds nightly.
Acy originally returned to Venice in October and found his 30-foot fishing boat tucked away in Albert's Cut where he'd tied it down. The narrow canal is protected on both sides by trees. The Lacy Kay and the three other boats that Acy and a friend secured were safe and sound. The fates were not as kind to the boats at the marina just one-half mile away. They are scarred, tossed and broken.
Acy says the first thing he did was go shrimping. "I got on my boat and went to work. And, you know, when you're out on the water, it's like none of this ever happened. It's all the same out there. Then you come in."
After Aug. 29, nothing was left of the restaurant but two cinder block walls. Acy, his friend Johnny Bourgeois, Tres, and Acy Sr. rebuilt the restaurant. Oil workers offered to do the heavy equipment work by clearing the property. Acy Sr. ordered the lumber from a family friend in Avoyelles Parish. The Coopers plained the rough cypress themselves for the interior walls. That was four months of work. "Yea, I had to go shrimping to get a rest," Acy says with a chuckle.
Today, the service counter top is smooth polyurethane. The kitchen is equipped with new stainless steel appliances and the propane lines are installed.
A couple of men in bright orange vests knock on the glass door. Marla gets up and walks over and turns the lock. "We open on Monday," she says apologetically. "I am starting to get my groceries today. If I have to serve you cold ham sandwiches, I am opening on Monday."
For more information, contact Sara Ann Harris at 504-838-1170 or the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board at 1-800-222-4017.