Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, the day Catholics, and more than a few non-Catholics, celebrate Mardi Gras. It’s a final party before Ash Wednesday launches Lent, 40 days of penance in preparation for Easter.
Chad Treadaway, co-owner of East Cobb’s Cajun Meat Co., comes from a large Catholic family with deep roots in Empire, LA, a small fishing community about 60 miles south of New Orleans.
"The Catholic Church is all I knew before moving here," Treadaway said. "In New Orleans, Catholic churches are everywhere."
Treadaway, 38, remembers celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
"My father would get a hotel room near where the parades would be from Friday to Wednesday," he said.
"My family is big, 100 to 150 people. When we'd all get together, we'd take up a whole block at the parade.”
Treadaway said his dad grilled seafood and sausages and had an ice chest full of beer, and the family set up ladders so the little kids could catch beads thrown from the floats.
"It was fun,” he said. "A feast and a free show—Mardi Gras is about the experience of it."
One Mardi Gras tradition is to serve king cake, a ring-shaped, colorfully frosted coffee cake. The partygoer who gets the slice with a small plastic baby in it has to host the next party.
The Cajun Meat Co., located in the East Lake Shopping Center for more than a decade, has king cakes express-shipped from New Orleans for sale during the Carnival season.
Mardi Gras isn’t the only special time of year for the shop; it also does a big business in turduckens and stuffed turkeys and chickens from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Treadaway works with two full-time employees and does everything from butcher and food preparation to clean up. He buys all his meat from local distributors.
Treadaway relies on word-of-mouth to market his store. "My customers from Louisiana have kept me here. They want real food that tastes like home," he said, adding with a smile, "It's also good that people from Louisiana usually are friendly and like to talk."
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. I like feeding people good food.
It feels good to provide a product that people enjoy.
Here, what we offer is different, but in New Orleans, it's not. Everything revolves around food there.
Q. Why did you choose to open your business in East Cobb?
A. I ran a butcher shop in New Orleans for five years before moving here.
People from Atlanta would stop in and fill up ice chests with the boneless stuffed chickens and tell me that there was nothing like them in Atlanta. And they'd tell me that I should move to Atlanta and open a store.
So I came over with a business plan and asked advice from people at Georgia Tech. I wanted to be near families where both parents worked, people with limited time to prepare a nice meal.
And that's what we offer here—meat ready to go into the oven. All you have to do is cook a vegetable.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. I couldn't get away from it. My whole family cooks. My dad was a fisherman; he cooked. My mom cooks. My aunts and uncles cook.
I have enjoyed cooking for as long as I can remember. I remember standing on a chair so that I could make pancakes.
In New Orleans, everyone has their own family recipes. We use all our own recipes here.
Q. What are some of the services you offer that people don't know about?
A. I get in live crawfish and boil them Fridays and Saturdays during Mardi Gras and when they're in season. I get in fresh seafood from Louisiana. I get fresh oysters by the gallon, by the bag. Louisiana seafood is clean. Good to eat.
Q. How long have you been in business?
A. I opened up here in 2001.
Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. Be dedicated and work. Get a good business plan for anything you want to open up. It's not easy. You have to be dedicated.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. We're a regular butcher shop. We've got fresh cuts, special orders. I can get and cut anything you want. All our food is preseasoned, ready to cook.
Cajun Meat Co.
2207 Roswell Rd., Suite 200
Chad and Christi Treadaway, owners