Russell Hendrick, the owner of Short Stop Poboys (119 Transcontinental Drive, Metairie, 504-885-4572; www.shortstoppoboysno.com), has worked in the family sandwich shop since he was in the eighth grade. His father, a New Orleans native, opened the business in April 1966, and the store has remained a family affair.
"I would come to work every day after school and during the summer," Hendrick says, adding that all of his sisters, plus several aunts, uncles and his grandfather, have worked at Short Stop.
The store is best known for its roast beef po-boy, which consists of house-made roast served with thin gravy. Specialties also include hamburgers and barbecue roast beef and shrimp po-boys.
But Short Stop didn't start as a sandwich joint, Hendrick says. It was a corner store that morphed into the po-boy shop it is today.
The business opened as a mom-and-pop grocery store selling fresh meats, cold cuts, bread and milk. But there was a hotel around the corner, and the family figured out that local workers wanted sandwiches to pick up on their lunch breaks.
"The hotel had a lot of maids," Hendrick says. "They would come over during lunch and buy 35 to 40 cents worth of cold cuts. Then one maid would buy lettuce, and one would buy a tomato and they would share that. And someone would buy a loaf of bread, and they would make sandwiches outside."
The family started putting together the ingredients ahead of time, Hendrick says, using cold cut meats and his mother's special slow cooker roast beef.
Pretty soon, other clientele took notice of Short Stop's roast beef po-boy with its secret ingredients and special gravy.
"My mother would cook the pot of roast beef every day, and that's how it started," Hendrick says, adding that the business really took off once the shop added seafood po-boys to the menu. "That's how we got into the sandwich business."
By 1970, the name of the store was changed from Short Stop Superette to Short Stop Poboys.
Now, Hendrick says, he's continuing the family business. He's proud of his father's story and hopes to pass ownership of the store to his son one day.
Soon, the store will celebrate its 50th anniversary, but Hendrick says he doesn't want things to change much.
"My favorite part, I guess, is the daily challenge of trying to prepare for all of your customers and give the freshest, most consistent food," he says. "That's my biggest thing, consistency. I want people to have the same experience that they had the first time they were here."
Among other things, that means using the same recipe his mother used for the shop's famous roast beef po-boys.
"You absolutely have to make it from scratch," Hendrick says. "That's the only way to do it."