Zesto re-opens after recovery from flood

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The grills were back up Friday, sizzling with hamburger patties, and a pot of chili was again simmering at Zesto — the popular Bogalusa institution that had been shuttered for four weeks following record flooding on March 11.

The little restaurant turns 50 years old in July and has suffered flooding in the past, but one of the owners, Ralph Pierce, said the March flooding was the deepest at five feet. Days after the flooding, as the restaurant was still drying, Ralph said he didn’t know the extent of the damages and he was worried the restaurant’s signature ice cream machine would be ruined.

“That’s a high-dollar piece of equipment,” he said at the time. “We won’t know if it works until next Wednesday.”

But on Monday, Ralph’s wife, Marion, who is also a partner in the business, said they were able to salvage much of the equipment. However, they did see losses.

“We lost all our inventory,” she said. “But everything else I have back working.”

She said the restaurant had to replace smaller pieces of machinery including toasters and a food processor, but the ice cream machine was spared.

While some repairs continue in the rear of the building, standing out front, ordering food, it would be impossible to know Zesto had been closed at all.

Marion said it was good things are back to normal.

“We’re glad to be back open,” she said.

For the first two days, Friday and Saturday of last week, Zesto offered a limited menu. But this week, everything is back on tap.

Marion said she’s seen an outpouring of local support since Friday.

“They’re so glad that we’re open,” she said of her customers. “They’ve taken pictures of their chili buns and put them on Facebook.”

At present, the restaurant is also selling Zesto shirts.

Monday, the drive-thru did a steady stream of business with grateful customers coming back for their longtime favorites. Danny McMillan said he’d been coming to Zesto for 42 years and his favorite item is the hot dogs.

Asked how he’d managed the last three weeks without Zesto, McMillan said, “I was just hoping they’d open up soon.”