One for the Road

Biker saloon pulls ’em in
Over the roar of motorcycle engines, word is spreading about a new Louisiana business that caters to an increasing population of weekend bikers.
Cy Dodge’s Bike Barn Saloon, located off Interstate 49 between Lafayette and Opelousas, is one man’s retirement project gone profitable.
Shaped like a barn with extended overhangs, the barn allows riders to park – on concrete – out of the weather and walk right in. Parking for cars and 15 recreational vehicles is also provided. Since opening the barn in December, Dodge has added a kitchen, outdoor bar, bandstand and gift shop.
The saloon averages 1,000 customers per week. During an April Harley owners group rally in Lafayette, the business served 5,000 customers in five days.
“The old days are gone,” Dodge says. “These people are businessmen and doctors. I would say 85 to 90 percent are couples. They ride responsibly and drink responsibly and carry credit cards.”
Randy Buckley, a Port Barre resident, was one of about two dozen riders participating in a Saturday poker run. “They have a lot of this in Florida, but it is unusual for this area,” he says of the design.
Dodge, 62, owns two Harley-Davidson motorcycles. “The Fat Boy is what I ride with my girlfriend, it’s my Cadillac, and the V-Rod is like my Corvette – fast. They just came out with the V-Rod in 2003.”
A native of Sunset, Dodge owned and operated the Villa Club during the 1970s. That club was located where the Bike Barn Saloon now stands.
“It burned in 1985,” he says. “We tore it down and buried it in the back.”
After moving around the country for a while, Dodge settled in Panama City Beach, Fla. “I had an RV and mobile home park there and after selling it I needed something to do,” he says.
Dodge returned home to Sunset and to the land where his club once stood.
It was during a visit with his son in Texas that he came up with the idea for the Bike Barn Saloon.
Some proprietors have renovated old service stations into bars that cater to motorcycle riders, Dodge says. The business owners remove walls so bikers can just drive up, park and walk in.
“When I began building, I thought I would start a little place, just for something to do … a place for my family to come to. I never expected it to attract so many people.
“We’re getting people from all over. It’s amazing, considering the only advertisement I did was 75,000 flyers when we first opened. Everything else has been word of mouth.”
Dodge said every dollar he has made has so far gone back into the business. His latest project is a 3,000-square-foot apartment on pilings along the south property line, where he plans to live. –Jacqueline Cochran


Fed designation for historic town
Natchitoches’ standing as the oldest permanent settlement in the expanse of the Louisiana Purchase territory has drawn the attention of the National Trust.
Recently named “One of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2005,” it is the first Louisiana city, town or village to make the listing.
“As area partners, we have been working in collaboration for a long time,” says Nancy Morgan, director of the 116,000-acre Cane River National Heritage Area.
Contained within the heritage area are the Natchitoches downtown and Cane River Creole National Historical Park.
The French were the first to establish Natchitoches in 1714. It is older than New Orleans, which was founded in 1718.
The Spanish came in 1721 and made Natchitoches the endpoint of the El Camino Real de los Tejas trade route from Mexico City.
Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the Americans built Fort Jesup as an outpost of the Western frontier.
Today there remains a representation of the peoples that inhabited the area during various periods – native American, Creole, French and Spanish.
Public support is tremendous, says Courtney Hornsby, Main Street manager for the city of Natchitoches. “For us to be included in this listing makes us feel like we’re kind of playing with the big boys. It’s kind of impressive.”
Laura Gates, superintendent of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, which is about 65 acres, is the guardian of Oakland Plantation and the outbuildings at Magnolia Plantation.
The Hertzog family, who still live there after 200 years, privately owns the Magnolia Plantation house.
“We consider ourselves the anchors,” Gates says. “We are the permanent federal presence in a dynamic community within the heritage area.”
“This recognition from the National Trust is wonderful for all of us,” she adds. “It gives us outside confirmation that we’re going in the right direction.”
There are 72 dozen distinctive destinations located in 36 states. A complete listing can be found on the Web at: –J.C.


Tipitina’s co-op expands
Tipitina’s, the New Orleans music club, is on a mission to help turn dreams into paying realities.
On April 18, the club’s nonprofit foundation opened a music co-op office in Shreveport, where artists living and working in the northwest corner of the state can receive business assistance.
Members pay a $10 monthly fee, which entitles them to technology, software support, training, production assistance and business mentoring.
The office is stocked with computers with Internet access. Members can also use phones, faxes, printers, copiers, and CD and DVD burners.
The co-op is modeled on one operating in New Orleans since 2003, which now has more than 300 members and claims a 30 percent earnings increase for members utilizing co-op services.
By the end of 2006, The Tipitina’s Foundation plans to have a co-op office opened in every major city in the state; Alexandria is next.
“There are a lot of folks who are just starting to get ideas. We can help them make sure they have their copyrights covered and get with publishing organizations. Here we have the tools and contacts to steer them in different directions,” says Dan Garner, a musician and now the Shreveport office manager.
While the co-op does not offer recording – “We are not a studio” – it offers plenty in the way of technology, Garner says. “They can come here and work on their bios and press packages. They can gain entry to their Web sites and work on their CD covers.”
The Shreveport office even offers members a chance to earn college credit through Southern University’s music technology program.
“The beauty of this is if you are a member you are a member in New Orleans and [if] you are on the road, you have access to the same technology in Shreveport,” Garner says.
Todd Souvignier, head of the foundation’s special operations, adds that memberships have no time minimum, so members stay as long as they need to. “We think it’s a good program in that it’s cheap and brings in returns. It’s really a pretty easy sell,” he says. –J.C.