Closure of Shell's Convent refinery causing concern for neighboring businesses
ST. JAMES PARISH - Thursday's news that Shell would be shuttering its Convent plant after more than 50 years of operation left employees and business owners shell-shocked.
"We just are getting in the door there, with this location, and you know, what a blow," Kyle Smith of Pot & Paddle said.
The newest Pot & Paddle location is just a five-minute drive from the refinery and over the Sunshine Bridge, on the Ascension, St. James parish line. It opened less than one month ago, specifically focused on serving workers at several surrounding plants.
"I would say that plant is probably a good 20 percent of our business," Smith said. "We have a lot of the contractors that come from that plant really help drive our lunches and dinners."
Even hours after workers learned they would soon be working elsewhere, Smith says his dining room was filled, as usual, with those on their lunch breaks.
"It was a grim scene today to see those guys in red with their faces hanging low," Smith said.
Smith said he and his staff feel for the workers who will now be looking for jobs elsewhere, and are also worried about the restaurant's bottom line, with a big chunk of business likely lost.
"When you see the jumpsuits, you pretty much can guarantee it's going to be an order of five or more," Smith said. "It's a good feeling to see those guys come in."
Shell's decision has Smith concerned about a snowball effect with other industries in the area, but he's hoping, as are local officials, that the facility can be purchased and repurposed to bring some of this business back.
"I'm hopeful that that would be the case, but as 2020 has shown us, we really do not know what's ahead," Smith said.