INSIDE DISH: Cajun couple plays to strengths

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Inside Dish

Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject for this installment is Zydeco's, an unlikely oasis of Cajun cuisine in downtown Mooresville. Few seem more surprised by its success than husband-and-wife owners Carter and Debora Hutchinson, who opened the eatery on just slightly more than a whim in 1998—and without any previous experience in the food or service sides of the food-service industry.

"We didn't known nothin' about no restaurantin'," Debora said, assuming a mock-backwoods accent for effect. "We were in business probably a month when one of our customers told us that there were big trucks that would bring food to you. We were like, 'Where do we sign up?'"

Debora, 52, and Carter, 51, met on Bourbon Street in New Orleans during Mardi Gras of 1996. He was a computer-graphic and fine artist in New Orleans who also taught computer-related course at Tulane University; she was in auto sales for a Toyota dealership in Indianapolis. They struck up a quick long-distance romance that led to Carter moving to central Indiana just a few months later. They soon bought a home in Mooresville; they married in 1998.

Carter's Cajun cooking was a hit with Debora's friends and co-workers. When a friend with a restaurant space to rent in Monrovia suggested that they consider opening an eatery, they jumped in with little forethought, using credit cards to finance a $12,000 startup. The period between the idea stage and the opening was less than a month—Aug. 14 to Sept. 11, 1998.

Their steep learning curve in the restaurant business was eased by door-busting patronage. "There wasn't anything like us around," Debora said. "And there were a lot of people from Louisiana who lived out here. We had no idea until we opened, and they all came out."

One lesson the Hutchinsons learned in the first few years was that it's often better to own your property than rent. In 2002, they purchased their current locale in downtown Mooresville, just a block or so from their home, and soon closed the Monrovia location. "We couldn't be both places at once," Debora said.

The Hutchinsons are quick to admit that they could save money by cutting some corners, such as sourcing many of their ingredients from local distributors instead of having them shipped from Louisiana. "Even the mustard that Carter uses—I can't get it here," Debora said. "I have to get it from Louisiana. How stupid is that? But we don't want to use any other mustard."

Beyond the occasional lean period, the restaurant typically provides a modest income for the Hutchinsons. Its gross sales have been remarkably consistent through the recession—between $390,000 and $410,000 annually from 2007 to 2009 (see "Notes from the Back of the Napkin," below).

"We'll never be rich, but we'll have what we want," Debora said. "It's not a making-money thing as much as it is our life."

In the video at top, Debora and Carter recount the creation of the restaurant and their early mistakes, and then take a stab at explaining how their working relationship exploits their individual strengths. In the video below, they provide a glimpse into the day-to-day give-and take between spouses who work together, as they debate the merits of altering the eatery's menu.

11 E. Main St., Mooresville
(317) 834-3900
Concept: Specializing in the cuisine of southern Louisiana, with suitably vibrant decor reminiscent of New Orleans and its environs.
Founded: September 1998
Owners: Carter and Debora Hutchinson
Start-up costs: $12,000 in the original location in Monrovia, mostly financed through credit cards; $200,000 to open the current location, including a $90,000 SBA loan, $70,000 in savings and about $40,000 through credit cards.
Gross sales/net income: $395,290 / $10,962 (2009); $409,071 / $25,272 (2008); $389,843 / $24,000 loss (2007).
Employees: 12
Seating: 48
Goals: To open for dinner on Tuesdays in 2011, and earmark 10 percent of gross sales each Tuesday to a not-for-profit group; to beef up their savings, buy a condo in Louisiana, and establish a nine-month work cycle in which Carter can spend November, December and January down South.

  • I'm Kinda A Big Fan
    Best Cajun food in Indiana. Deb is a true delight, lucky to call her a friend. Get a Hurricane and have Garlic Soup, Half and Half half gumbo & half jambalaya, and finish it with their Bread Pudding. You'll think you've died and gone to New Orleans Heaven.
  • Great food and music!
    The best Cajun/Creole food anywhere - better than some restaurants in New Orleans! Great live music, too. I like going during brunch for those shrimp and cheese grits, and to hear the Dan Holmes Group. Lots of fun, everyone there is wonderful.
  • One of a kind!
    Zydecos is an food experience not to be missed! The atmosphere is fun and festive . . . any day! And . . . Deb and Carter? Well you watched the video didn't you? Check it out! They make Mooresville proud!
  • Great Place
    This has got to be one of the best restaraunts I have been to. The atmosphere is great the people and staff are awesome and the food is to die for. If you've never been, it's an experience you must have and I promise you will go back again and again.
    See ya there!
  • It's the Best!
    Zydeco's is such a fun place! I've been there several times and always see something new in the restaurant because of its unique decorating. Fantastic food at a friendly and unique place. You won't be sorry you went there!
  • Zydeco's
    Love-Love-Love this restaurant and Debbie is such a blast! If you are smart, you'll get there on their 1st Sunday Brunch day. Awesome - expecially when they have shrimp and cheesy grits. Just a great place and a very quick, short drive from Indy. Going down 67 - if you take the "old 67" exit and stay on that road - you will drive right to Zydeco's. Be ready for a great time and take the beads with you! (Keep a look out for Debbie in her Saints Jersey though - she's a huge fan)

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
thisissue1-092914.jpg 092914

Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Here are a few candidates for this new group, "ripped from the headlines." First up, that bizzaro State Senator Brent Waltz; secondly, the unethical Todd Huston, and his contractual arrangements scheme; Finally, but not least of all, the dishonorable Eric Turner. What sayeth you Greg Zoeller?

  2. Good day. I can't hide this great testimony that take place in my life I will love everyone to know it and be partaker that is why I always place it on answer, I am Mrs,Natalie Cuttaia by name, I live in Texas, United State Of America, I want to thank (Mr.Bruce Brandon) for his kindness upon my family life. I never knew that there is still nice lender like this on internet and earth here. Just some Months Back, I was in search for a loan of $100,000,00 as I was running out of money for feeding and rent. I was scammed $6,800 Dollars and I decided not to involve my self in such business again but a Friend of my introduced me to a loan firm due to my appearance and doings. And I told him that I am not interested of any loan deal anymore but he told me that there is still a nice lender who he will recommend me to, and I made a trial and I am most grateful lucky am I today, I was given a loan amount of $100,000.00usd, by this great Company (Bruce Brandon Loan Company) managed by (Mr.Bruce Brandon) If you are in need of a genuine or legit loan or financial assistance and you can be reliable and trusted of capable of paying back at the due time of the funds I will advice you to, contact him via: ( bruce.brandon071@gmail.com ) And you will be free from scams in the internet. All thanks to Mr.Bruce Brandon You are the one who remove me and my family out of poverty. The reason why i am doing this is that, i promise Mr.Bruce Brandon that if i truly got my loan, i will advertize his company and bring customers to his company. Contact him via ( bruce.brandon071@gmail.com )for the Loan you have been looking for..

  3. Hello, We are firm Organization formed to help people in needs of helps,such as financial help. So if you are going through financial difficulty or you are in any financial mess,and you need funds to start up your own business,or you need loan to settle your debt or pay off your bills,start a nice business, or you are finding it hard to obtain capital loan from local banks,contact us today via email mrsroseberrywilkinsfunds.usa@gmail.com So do not let these opportunity pass you by because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever more. Please these is for serious minded and God fearing People. Your Name: Loan Amount: Loan Duration: Valid Cell Phone Number: Thanks for your understanding to your contact as we Await Regards Management Email:mrsroseberrywilkinsfunds.usa@gmail.com

  4. The question is, where could they build a new stadium? It seems in the past year, all the prime spots have been spoken for with potential projects. Maybe in the industrial wasteland area a block past Lucas Oil? I think it needs to be close to the core, if a new stadium is built.

  5. Aldi is generally a great shopping experience. Still, I'm sure YOU wouldn't want to shop there, which I consider a positive.