CEO & Working Grads
Delgado Graduate Jay Nix, Owner of Parkway Tavern
Parkway Bakery & Tavern, located in Faubourg Bayou St. John, is owned by Delgado Community College graduate Jay Nix. Nix has been serving one of New Orleans’ signature sandwiches, the “Poor Boy” since 2003. Despite the restaurant being submerged in the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina after being open for only two years, Nix reopened Parkway and the business has been booming ever since.
Nix received a diploma in auto mechanics from Delgado. He almost considered being a physical therapist after receiving a tracheostomy following a near-fatal car accident. Even though his father was a physician, Nix realized that he wouldn’t want to hang around hospitals. “Delgado gave me professional training and helped build my confidence,” said Nix. “I knew I had to go and get a trade. I didn’t want to be a doctor. I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I was a hands on kind of guy. My daddy was a doctor, but he didn’t push me in that direction.”
Nix also entered the carpentry program to be successful in the dating game. “When I was young and dating, I would have a date and she would see my fingernails and she would say ‘forget it,’ so I went from being an auto mechanic to a carpenter because the sawdust was easier to deal with than to have all that grime and dirt under my nails,” Nix joked. “Now you wear gloves on your hands, but back then I used to use a wire brush and comet on Friday nights to try to get my hands presentable for the girl I was going out with. I couldn’t get to first base with dirty hands.”
Nix has fond memories of Delgado when he was a student. He remembers when the third floor of the main building was just a roof structure. “You couldn’t even go up there—it was like a big attic, said Nix.” Nothing was up there. I remember when they started working on that. Now it’s glorious.”
Nix also obtained an associate’s degree in business administration, received some real estate training, and participated in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (SBDC) programs at Delgado. “I got my basic business skills from Delgado with my business administration associate’s degree,” he said. “I was born with some kind of business skills, but I sharpened them at Delgado. When I started my business I had to be more professional, so I got more restaurant and business training.”
Before owning Parkway Tavern, Nix worked odd jobs to make ends meet. He was a sales person for Fleet Mechanics and worked for what is now Grey Line—Orleans Transportation, 43 years ago. After that Nix went to Northwestern and did auto mechanics out of his grandmother’s garage and worked for his grandmother’s real estate company doing home repairs.
Nix also dabbled in real estate sales, but it just didn’t click, so he started doing maintenance with another real estate company until it folded. He was already moonlighting with his own clients doing house repairs after work before the company went out of business. He was taking in 15 percent of his income from the extra work, then after losing his job, he paired the savings with his unemployment check and decided to invest in himself and started his own business called Real Estate Repairs. “I worked my way to my own business from working on fine homes and fine restaurants,” said Nix. “My friend bought a bed and breakfast, a building similar to this one on Bayou Road and North Rocheblave. I built that whole fine dining restaurant.”
Through hard work and savings, Nix purchased Parkway Bakery and Tavern. He completely restored the entire the Parkway Tavern building. “Once you learn how to use your hands, you are not stuck with auto mechanics,” said Nix. “It really doesn’t matter whether it’s cars, boats, airplanes, houses, or restaurants.”
The building sat vacant for 10 years before Nix had enough money, time, and courage to go into the restaurant industry. “So basically I went from cutting two by fours to cutting French bread in six months,” he said. “When I bought Parkway Bakery, I put the original sign up—‘We’re saving Parkway!’ Then after I opened, I put up a sign—‘We saved Parkway!’ Then after Katrina we put a sign up—‘We saved Parkway again!’”
Parkway Bakery was founded by a German baker named Charles Goering Sr. in 1911 that served freshly baked breads, donuts, and sweet rolls until 1922, when Henry Timothy Sr. purchased Parkway Bakery. In 1929, a new “Poor Boy” sandwich was added to the menu, a sandwich invented to help feed the striking streetcar conductors. Henry and Jake Timothy, the sons of Henry Timothy Sr., inherited Parkway Bakery in the early 1960s when their father died. The Timothy brothers kept Parkway Bakery open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week feeding workers from the nearby American Can Company that closed in 1988. Parkway Bakery reduced its days and hours but continued making “Poor Boy” sandwiches until its doors closed in 1993.
To keep a restaurant going, Nix believes that you have to make the money first and manage it second. Secondly, you have to reduce cost and not quality. “A lot of business owners think when their numbers don’t work and they can’t make payroll, the only option is to raise menu prices or layoff employees, but that’s the last option that you want,” said Nix. “You can never say that there is nowhere else to reduce cuts.”
That isn’t the only lesson Nix has learned over the years from being a business owner. He also realized that in spite of receiving his associate’s degree in business management, he needed more training so he applied for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program and graduated in March 2012. “Goldman Sachs is like a crash M.B.A course,” said Nix. “It’s really powerful. It’s life changing. It’s about creating jobs and creating growth. So you create business growth and in order for businesses to grow, you have to grow jobs. So it’s about the whole economy and creating jobs by way of growing business. They teach you how to grow your business and in order to grow your business you have to borrow money. You also have to hire more people. It’s a way to get the whole economy back on track.”
“The two most important things I got out of the course were simple. One, you have to work on your business, not in your business,” said Nix. “The other thing they taught me is that I thought of myself as the owner, but not necessarily the leader. Everyone in this organization hopes to look towards one leader and that leader has to set an example. I just don’t consider myself an owner but a part of the whole team. In battle, the leaders lead their troops in front of the crowd, but in this business you lead from the rear. You oversee from the rear and you watch them moving. If you are leading from the front you can’t see what they are doing—you have to have a bird’s eye view. Just those two things alone were powerful.”
Recently, Nix has been back at Delgado. He sat on a panel for the 10,000 Small Business program to talk to current students. The students were asking him how to get money to start a business, so he shared his experience with them about how he saved the money to get his business off the ground. “We do $3 million in sales here, but that means nothing to me at all,” said Nix. “After you make the money, it’s how you manage it and what you do with it.”
Nix believes that his business administration degree has helped him run his business effectively, and he has even more advice for anyone who would like to open a restaurant or any other business. “Start small,” he said. “We run our business by the numbers. You’ve got to keep labor and food costs down. Purchasing, labor, and overhead should be below your daily sales. Your daily expenses have to be less than your daily sales to be able to make a profit and that’s what we are all in it for. If you are in a business and you are just breaking even, then you are wasting your time.”
On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Barack Obama and his family were patrons of Parkway Tavern. “We didn’t even know that he was coming,” said Nix. “We had a 15-minute notice. We received an anonymous phone call. It could have been a reporter or a customer who knew.”
Shortly after the call, the streets were blocked off, helicopters hovered over the restaurant, and groups of men in trench coats were standing on every corner in the middle of a hot summer day. President Obama arrived with 50 of his staff members at Parkway. “He shows up and walks to the end of the line and he shakes hands with every man and touches every woman on the shoulder,” Nix recalls. “Then he walks all the way up to the cash register and asks, ‘Do you mind if I order?’ He didn’t just walk up there and say I am going ahead of ya’ll. Then he pays. The bill is like $18, but he only had $12. So he turns around to this big secret service agent—a big blonde secret service agent and says, ‘You got some money?’ She pulls out her wallet and makes the difference and he pays the bill.”
At Parkway Tavern, after you place your order, the kitchen calls your name over the PA system when it is ready. The president was treated like every other customer who eats at Parkway. “When your order is ready, we call your name,” Nix explained. “Well, my nephew Justin says, ‘Barack, your order’s up!’ ”
Not only was the president visiting for the Katrina anniversary, but he also came to support the seafood industry after the BP oil spill. “President Obama came here because we had a lot of people from the White House and the Department of Labor and Economic Development come here,” said Nix. “We've reached a lot of people. We are well known.”
Parkway Bakery and Tavern is a family-owned and operated business that serves about 25 different ‘Poor Boys’ and about 1,500 sandwiches a day. In 2003, Parkway Tavern had four to six employees. Today, Parkway employs 30 to 40 people. “One of the most important things in business is morale,” said Nix. “It’s about the people. I’m not running this business. I’m just the leader.”
In the past when Nix used to think about Delgado, the only thing that came to his mind were trades. Later he realized that Delgado offered so much more than that. “I used to think about trades,” said Nix. “That's what attracted me to Delgado. I just needed to get a trade just to have something to fall back on. So I said well, I’ll just get an auto mechanics trade, and then I don’t have to pay anyone to work on my cars. Then once I got there, its’ like geez, there's business administration, art, and commercial design. It’s not all about plumbing, electric, carpentry, and airplane mechanics. There’s a whole bunch of stuff you can get and learn here. I learned more at Delgado than I learned anywhere else. And that’s a fact.”
Interior Design graduates have many choices to choose from
Graduate Liz Hartman is an example of that diversity
Hartman graduated in May of 1998 with honors and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She immediately found a job and went to work at an interior design firm called, Lisambiance. "Lisambiance was a great place to start my career, because it was where I learned the foundation of how an interior design firm operates. We did both residential and commercial design work," said Hartman.
From there she went on to work for Norwalk Furniture, where she sold furniture, accessories and fabric. After that she worked with Wikoff and Mestayer, an architect and design firm. Ed Wikoff was actually one of her professors at Delgado. While at Wikoff and Mestayer, she transferred his hand drawings into CAD drawings. "It was fascinating to see a design from an architect point of view. Ed is an extremely talented architect. He taught me a lot at Delgado and it was a pleasure to work with him," said Hartman.
Later on, Hartman moved to the Georgia Mountains after Katrina where she worked as a designer for a boutique shop. "It was a very different design experience coming from New Orleans to the mountains to design. The end result was the same though, sharing ones talent to enhance someone else's world." She was also one of the staff designers at Mountain Marble and Tile where she custom designed kitchens, bathrooms and hard surface flooring. Although Hartman has experience in other areas, she has always maintained her own design firm, "ehl designs."
Carmen Bazile, First female African-American to graduate with a Culinary Arts Degree
In 1973, Carmen Bazile was the first female African-American to graduate with a Culinary Arts Degree from Delgado Junior College. The school was chosen for her after she made hamburgers for a family that she cooked and cleaned for as a maid. Unaware of the meaning of culinary, she began the program, all expenses paid. At Delgado, Carmen learned cake decorating, international, bulk and industrial cooking. Her years at Delgado were very challenging. The biggest obstacle was breaking through the male-dominated world of culinary arts. In spite of the challenges, she became the president of the Culinary Club and still managed to get a job as a head chef after graduation. Later, she worked at Nunez Community College for 24 years and won the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2002. Carmen also created a line of seasoning called, Miss Ruth's All-Natural Seasonings that have been sold all-over the world.
Daphny Davila: College dream comes true for coffee shop employee
Daphny Davila is glad she opened the door to college. She graduated from Metairie’s Grace King High School in 2001 and had several colleges to choose from. She chose Delgado because she wanted to pursue a career in allied health and she knew choosing a small college with more one-on-one attention would help her reach her goal
Although Davila enjoyed working at the famous Café Du Monde in the French Quarter, she wanted more out of life and decided to continue her education. “I always knew I wanted to help others and radiology was the best avenue, since I see it as the eye of medicine. It was also a great stepping stone to other diagnostic modalities,” said Davila.
At Delgado, Davila received assistance through federal grants and loans. She graduated from the Radiologic Technology program in 2008 and Radiation Therapy in 2010. Today she works in radiation therapy at Ochsner Medical Center and in radiology at East Jefferson General Hospital.
“I furthered my career in radiation therapy and I love it! I have been employed for four years in radiology and two years in radiation therapy,” said Davila.