After striking out in Duson, and a no-go in Scott, we decided to try our luck elsewhere. Compelled, for some reason, to pull over and we’re lucky we did because we got to hear the story of Jose Sanchez and one of Acadiana’s best-kept secrets.
“We started the store in 2002, September 12, 2002,” says Sanchez of his store Pepin’s in Lafayette.
The story of Jose, though, starts long before that.
“We left Cuba in 1964, the whole family left.”
Leaving the Castro Regime and all their belongings behind, and waiting a year in Spain for the paperwork to clear, the family moved to the U.S.
“It was taxing for the family, for us it was a big adventure,” says Sanchez.
It was once he arrived in Puerto Rico that he started to learn business.
“We would make sandwiches and stuff like that and we used to take ice chests and sell them to the offices on their coffee break.”
Showing an entrepeneurial spirit at a young age and taking in lessons from his father who himself was an entrepreneur.
“My dad has always been an entrepeneur, he had a store, hotels, restaurants.”
Jose’s store, Pepin’s, in fact, gets its name from his father.
“It’s named after my dad. Pepin is his nick name.”
The store, much like Jose, is a blend of different influences.
“I was born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico, so it has all these caribbean influences”
And those influences are, unsurprisingly, what makes the store feel so “at home” here in Cajun country.
It was LSU that brought Jose to Louisiana, but something else that brought him to Acadiana. The food, the music, and the women, Jose says, were a part of the draw. But, not necessarily in that order.
The culture here is a culture that he could relate to instantly. It made Lafayette feel like home.
“This area is so rich, and so much a like our culture,” says Sanchez. “That to me wasn’t a culture shock, it was surprising in how similar it was.”
Coming from a family of musicians, Jose made himself part of the scene, playing in his own band Latino Pulse with some of the greats.
“I’ve played with Chubby Carrier, I was on the Zydeco Junkie album,” says Sanchez.
And even picking up his moves a long the way, now he’s able to serve up the perfect mix of his past and present in a small Cajun store, named for his Cuban father,
“I’m a Cuban Cajun Creole.”
As for us, we’re heading back to Breaux Bridge on the next “What’s Your Story.”