By Nancy Marchbanks
Nick and Sue Neyrey have come to the Coast by way of the West Bank in New Orleans. Katrina forced the family to relocate for years in Texas where they began a new life. In time they acclimated but the move was particularly hard on Sue. They left a close knit family, and she longed for the camaraderie of their loved ones and friends. The couple traveled back home every weekend to watch the Saints play during their glorious Super Bowl season, and it became undeniable that it was time to leave Texas and get back home. They had been in the restaurant business for sixteen years, so the first step was to scout around for the perfect location and open a new eatery!
Originally, the plan was to open the restaurant in the New Orleans area while residing on the Coast. “The restaurant business takes dedication and a true passion, you’ve got to love it and give it everything you’ve got in order to succeed. If you surround yourself with people that share your enthusiasm and will work just as hard as you do…you can’t go wrong,” Nick said. The Neyrey’s like the unpredictability of the restaurant biz, everyday is different and you have to be able to very flexible. “We never know what is going to happen next, and that is exciting,” Sue added.
Just days before the oil rig explosion in the Gulf, Nick and Sue were about to open another restaurant. Everything changed when the oil spill intensified. Restaurant owners were scrambling to find ways to bring customers in, and everyone was in trouble. “We took a step back and put things on hold for awhile, but it eventually all came together thanks to the loyalty and support of our employees, friends, and family,” Sue said.
Over the years, the couple have owned several restaurants. As a young parent, Nick coached little league sports. Two of the Neyrey restaurants were named “Coach’s” in honor of Nick’s love of coaching and his dedication to youth sports. Now the original Coach’s sign proudly hangs above the stage at The Fire House.
The restaurant has a French Quarter flair. Nick wanted to bring the ambiance of The Big Easy to the Gulf Coast. The emphasis is on southern blues and jazz, and you will always find the hottest local and regional bands playing here. Whether you come in for a relaxing meal during the day, or want to party through the night when the sun goes down…The Fire House has it all.
When the opportunity presented itself for the Neyrey’s to set up shop in the old Benigno building on Blaize Avenue in the heart of the historic Depot District in Bay St. Louis, Nick and Sue knew that this place was exactly what they had dreamed of. Just blocks from the Bay, the area is steeped in history.
Although the Benigno property had been neglected for quite some time and was in need of a complete overhaul, it was once a highly prized piece of real estate. The Neyrey’s saw the enormous potential in the old building and couldn’t wait to bring it to life again. “It has been a tremendous job to get things into proper shape, but we have made so many discoveries about this remarkable place and we love everything about it,” Sue said.
The transformation began with the back yard. The property had been overgrown with weeds and trash trees, several feet high. It was like a jungle, but the more Sue, Nick, and their adult son, Jacque, cut away the plants and cleared the debris, they found one surprise after another! A path of beautiful old Chicago brick was discovered under the wild and unruly plants and grasses. It wound around the back property and lead to a courtyard. A spacious outdoor seating area includes a red wood deck with tables and chairs under sunny umbrellas. A full size beach volley ball court will also be available for summer tournaments later this summer!
Fluer De Lis fountains will add to the New Orleans ambiance outside, as well as whimsical tree stump carvings . “Our employees helped us every step of the way, as we prepared to open. We have done all the work ourselves,” Nick said. “It is very rewarding to see the transformation,” he added.
The menu for The Fire House offers a wonderful selection of of big sandwiches and other family favorites. Also enjoy delicious, perfectly seasoned boiled seafood, oysters on the half shell, and a huge selection of bottled beer. The Fire House carries 50 different kinds!
Breakfast items are served anytime. If you are in the mood for ham and eggs or biscuits and gravy in the late afternoon…just ask! Head cook, Teri Collins, has been with the Nick and Sue for many years as has Cinnamon Pierce, who is part of the wait staff. Teri also prepares food for a local senior citizen home, and is well known for her wonderful meals.
The Fire House has an unmistakable bright red painted exterior. Inside, old Chicago brick walls give the restaurant a unique character and warmth. One-man-band, Brad Helms kicks off the weekend night life, then DJ Smakk takes over for late night entertainment with Freaky Friday’s. Become a friend on Facebook, and you will get regular updates on the bands and more!
Nick Neyrey is on site almost around the clock. “This business is constantly evolving, and we intend to keep it fresh and fun for everyone,” he said. A Jazz Brunch is offered every Sunday from 10 to 2. The Fire House “dresses up” for the occasion with flowers on the tables and lots of special touches! The menu includes crepes, fresh asparagus, jambalaya, eggs benedict, and barbeque shrimp for $19.00 per person. There is only one dessert served at The Fire House, and that is Sue’s Famous Bread Pudding…one taste and you will understand why this dessert is THE dessert!
The Fire House is a welcome addition to the Bay St. Louis Depot District. It is open from 10 a.m to 2 a.m, 7 days a week.