The International Labour Organization (ILO) marked its centenary in 2019 and as part of the commemoration has launched a photography project called “Dignity at Work: The American Experience” to document the working life of people across the United States. UN News joined the ILO on a visit to the southern US state of Louisiana.
Dana Cormier manages the Best Stop Supermarket in Scott, Louisiana. Her business specializes in Cajun cuisine including boudin (a type of sausage) and cracklins (deep fried pork rind). Her father established the supermarket 33 years ago, and she has been working there for 24 years. The Cajun people settled in southern Louisiana after being exiled from Canada in the mid-1700s.
“When I was growing up, the one thing I wanted to be was a police officer, so I joined up and worked in narcotics for two years. I then decided I wanted to work in the family business, which I’m now running. I have two sisters, a brother and a niece who also work here and a nephew may be coming to help.
I love what I do. I meet a lot of great customers and I enjoy being busy like we are today; it’s back-to-back customers ahead of the big college football game tomorrow. But we are busy throughout the year with celebrations and people coming to get a taste of Cajun culture; we really love our food here.
We have 45 workers and are looking to grow our business. Behind the retail store we are fixing to build a wholesale warehouse from where we can supply businesses, restaurants, bars, supermarkets, anyone who wants to sell our boudin.
We are also beginning to franchise and have a smaller satellite store around five miles from here, which will sell our products as well as cooked food. We are also shipping across the United States from our website store. We’re big, but we’re going to get bigger.
It’s a good feeling working in this business, but you have to put your running shoes on, as it’s a lot of hard work. You have to be hands-on and make sure your products are consistent. We have the best employees here, but you still need to have an eye and hand on the business. As a boss, you need a good team behind you and must be in the business 24/7 - at least for the first ten years.
In terms of the skills I need to run this store, it’s important that I know how to do everything, knowing every recipe, knowing how to manage people and work fast. One of the things we tell our workers is that we don’t want our customers to be waiting around to be served.
We are a small store so trying to get our product made as fast as we can and keeping up with the orders is challenging. So, if I’m cutting meat in the back, I will often come out and help customers to get them served as quickly as possible. It’s important to be nice to the customer, to keep them happy because if they are not, they won’t be coming back.
I’m motivated to work harder and harder when I see more customers coming in and our business growing, to see how busy we can get in this little-bitty Cajun store. Being Cajun means friends, family, loving to cook and enjoying life. Cajun people are all family. It brings a smile to my face when a customer takes a bite of boudin and they say ‘man, this is good stuff’”.