Until the move next door to the old building, curiosity and wonder surrounded the weathered brick and sign evoking even more questions. Minuteman Furniture Restoration, to a patriot, would seem to be something from long ago invading the day-to-day travel down the busy one-way US Highway 182. Almost at the same time, a flyer announcing the second annual Sugar Cane and Gumbo Festivals’ Open House and a note from the owner with an invitation to visit next door, finally brought a halt to the passing by and an introduction to a legacy and a father to son industry.
“I like to work on project pieces on the weekends, and doing the annual sale gives me a whole year to work on them and decide if I want them at my house or to sell them,” Allen Patout said. “We have a lot of the friends of the family with antiques and we’ll sell them for them, too.”
James Patout opened the furniture restoration business 31 years ago this month. The name stuck with him because of the products that he used to strip and stain the furniture of his business. First, he asked for permission from the company that supplied the chemicals needed to restore and protect the wood fixtures in homes and business. With permission granted, Minuteman began. Many may pass by the building that time forgot, but few could forget the handiwork of the pair, now the son Allen Patout’s business, with part time help from the founder.
“I was doing home repair in the 1980s, but all the big contractors started to do it because they needed the work,” James Patout said. “I needed to find something that nobody was doing. This was it. I went to a few workshops and got started. I’ve now turned it over to Allen.”
The apprentice and self-taught son said he learned almost everything from his father, with some online instruction — but mostly hands on experience.
“Everything in my house that’s not upholstered I’ve redone,” Allen Patout said. “That’s what I practice on for the new styles, and to furnish my house. When I get bored with it, I bring it here, clean it up and sell it to make room for something new I’m working on.”
The man’s dream workroom/ warehouse has an assortment of tools and wooden pieces including every stage of refurbishing hanging on the wall or stashed in the waiting line. Some pieces are complete and on consignment from customers. Others will be waiting until a slow time to have the joints repaired or to be sanded and stripped to be primed for a new finish. There will never be a day without something that could be done in the Minuteman workroom.
“I was part time in high school and college, but full time since 2005,” said Allen Patout. “I remember helping roll the pews over here from St. Peter’s 25 years ago. I guess I wasn’t even a teenager then.”
James Patout said since he’s been in business, he has refinished the pews and furnishings in about 20 churches including work with St. Martin de Tours Church in St. Martinville.
“If we have a piece of furniture with square nails, we have extra square nails over here to repair it with,” James Patout said. “We’ll come back with the same thing for the look, the character.”
The really old pieces won’t be stripped, but will be preserved with the old finish that gives the value to the antique. Each piece is different and requires inspection and understanding about what is necessary and desired by the customer.
“Newer stuff that’s been in hurricanes or fires, we take back to bare wood and start with the new canvas,” Allen Patout said. “Having it stripped to bare wood helps with the repair process so we can make everything seamless. A lot of what we do is repairs. We do repairs on modern purchases and finish or strip a lot from the 1970s and 80s.”
His favorite thing about the furniture business is that there is always something different. The work they will begin next week to update a whole bedroom set from the 1970s will be as Allen Patout refers to it, “Bring it back to life.”
“There are times it is tedious work, but I’ll start the week on one piece and by the end of the week I’ll have two or three pieces done,” he said. “Everything changes.”
“A lot of people only see the building as the place where they took their graduation picture,” Patout said. “We close the building at 4 p.m. and shut it up with board on the windows, so it looks like a dilapidated old building. There is no telling how many graduation pictures have been taken outside. I’ve seen a lot of pictures online. They say it brings out the beauty of the subject standing in front of something old and ugly.”
Patout said he often sees pictures in magazines or other printed materials with the old building as the background. The blue doors and fading painted brick captures the imagination of artists as well.
Dustin Sonnier asked permission to use a picture of the side of the building on his new album cover.
Minuteman isn’t listed as a retail store, but it’s one of the places unique and treasured antiques and pieces are collected and available to the discerning eye. And for anyone who has ever been in Preservation Bar & Grill, formerly Clementines, you’ll recognize the Patout handiwork when leaning on the bar or looking at the old stained shelves that hold a million memories. They did that restoration, too.