When it comes to the success of his longtime Boutte shop, Maison Décor, Shane Matherne credits a couple of exceptional role models.
“I’ve always believed in teaching my customers well, and I tell them, ‘Hey, if I didn’t treat you guys like this, my mom and dad would come down and slap me,’” Matherne said with a laugh. “They’d tell me, ‘You’ve gotta treat those people right!’”
Matherne’s mother passed away in 1997 after a battle with cancer, and his father passed on in February of last year. But their son’s shop is in many ways a tribute to their memory – and just one of many to a duo that left a rich, eventful legacy in their community – and harkens back to a predecessor. Before there was a Maison Décor, there was another Matherne family business in St. Charles Parish: Shane’s World’s Best Hamburgers, which was previously known as Mr. Snowman.
“Since my dad passed last year, everyone’s been coming to the store and bringing up Shane’s World Best Hamburgers,” said Shane, who was indeed the restaurant’s namesake. “It’s kind of cool to still have customers, to this day, come in asking about it.
“It started off as a little small business, and grew into something bigger, definitely something larger than anticipated.”
Jerry and Dorothy “Dot” Matherne – “She was always Dot. She didn’t like to be called Dorothy,” Shane said – began raising their family in St. Charles Parish in 1956, when Shane was born. The couple lived in Larose before Jerry secured a job with Monsanto and moved to what would be their lasting home. The two raised four children, two boys and two girls.
Jerry would go on to ultimately retire with Monsanto, while Dot was a stay-at-home mom. But in the mid-70s, the couple decided to pursue their ambitions of opening a “little goodies shop,” ultimately taking the form of Mr. Snowman. The business sold snowballs and ice cream, and it was open from Easter through Labor Day each year. It was just the beginning.
“St. Charles Parish was very small at the time,” Shane said. “My dad said, ‘You know, it would be a good thing for kids if we opened this up.’ We never thought it was going to turn into anything big, but it just kind of grew over the years, and it kept growing. Eventually, it became kind of a landmark.”
Accelerating that growth was the store’s evolution. Dot had a reputation as an excellent cook, and those who knew that
began asking if the shop would begin serving other items – hot dogs, nachos, roast beef, barbeque beef, fried shrimp, fried oysters and, of course, hamburgers were among the additions to the menu, each from Dot’s own special recipes. The restaurant started gaining strong footing and, on the advice of a restaurant consultant, the name of the business was changed to Shane’s World’s Best Hamburgers, Serving Mr. Snowman Desserts.
“(The consultant) liked my name and said, ‘Why not call it Shane’s World’s Best Hamburgers because I absolutely loved those hamburgers,” Shane said. “That came in the early 80s.”
Business got so hot that the family opened a second restaurant in Pensacola Beach, Fla. A third opened in Avondale – and 10 more were in the works to be opened in Baton Rouge as the business was launching into a full-fledged franchise.
But tragedy struck before those stores could open. Dot, the driving force at the heart of the restaurant’s success, was diagnosed with cancer. The Mathernes made the decision to step away from the business entirely.
“The business was pretty much all my mom’s influence,” Matherne said. “I consider her to be one of the wisest people I’ve ever known. She had an answer for everything. I wish I were as smart.”
Jerry was pretty darned sharp too. The couple had a knack for management in several areas. As youths, Shane and his brother Robert started a professional band called the Young Dreamers, with Jerry and Dot managing them.
Manage they did – and then some. The brothers credit their parents with spurring them to reach heights that included playing for two sitting U.S. Presidents, for the Special Olympics and several times on the famed Jerry Lewis nationally televised telethon.
“We were the No. 1 variety band in New Orleans for several years, and that’s all a credit to my mom and dad,” Shane mused.
The common denominator in these successes? Perhaps it was simple: likeability. Shane says that, without question, Dot was a people person, as was Jerry.
“Dad always said Mom never met a stranger. She knew everybody,” Shane said. “They were so intertwined in our community. When I think about all the friends they had, people they knew and the things they’ve been involved with – and that we were involved with through them – I just think ‘Wow,’ when I get that chance to reflect.”