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Porch & Parish

Meet the Press

Jan 23, 2024 10:40AM ● By Lauren Pope

Helping people feel connected to the Zachary community has always been the heart of the Porch & Parish mission. Though the look and feel of the magazine has evolved constantly over the past two and a half years, it has remained focused on telling stories about the people who make Zachary great and showcasing the local business that keep it vibrant. It’s only natural, then, that the Gennaros have expanded their vision to include a new space in Zachary that is all about community connection.

Introducing: The Press

The name refers to the physical building that was until recently the home of Whimsical Alley. It’s a play on the fact that it’s housing the Porch & Parish offices and also a new coffee shop. News press, coffee press…get it?

The Press is also the new home of Counterspace Zachary. They’ll be offering baked goods, like homemade king cakes, loaves of bread, breakfast options and their famous salted chocolate chip cookies, and running a coffee shop with beans roasted locally from Fringe roasters. Counterspace also will devote half of the first floor to retail, offering affordable, trendy appliances and other stuff home chefs love–a true kitchen shop for Zachary!

In the next few pages, we’ll introduce you to the team and hopefully answer all of your burning questions about what to expect. We’re all so excited to make this dream a reality, and can’t wait to share it with all of you, our friends and neighbors here in the Z. Let’s go!

"It's a running joke that the more stressed we become, the more bubblegum we chew." says Jen.
P & P Crew: from left to right: Lauren Pope, Jen Gennaro, Ashley Evans, Mike Gennaro.

Photo by Jackie Haxthousen 

Interview with Mike and Jen

How did this whole thing get started?

Mike: I was talking with Ashley (P&P Assistant Editor Ashley Evans) about how cool it would be to have a building like this with a space for all of our offices and also some sort of coffee shop concept. 

Jen: We weren’t necessarily thinking of this building in particular, although we had considered it a bit, but there didn’t seem to be any way to make it happen. Besides, we had only been in our new building (the former Lions Club) for less than two years, which we’d done a complete renovation on. 

Mike: That changed when Jen got a call from her sorority sister and real estate client Sarah Joy asking if she knew of a house zoned commercial to operate as a test kitchen.

Jen: “Can you come to Zachary?” I asked, and she was up here an hour later. We then ran into each other the next night at Assembly Required in Baton Rouge, and suddenly everything just started coming together really quickly.

What can people expect to find at The Press?

Mike: We have this concept of Culture, Cuisine, and Knowledge. We wanted to help create walkability in downtown Zachary. You can really make a whole afternoon of it. Go to Roly Poly for lunch, then walk over here and get coffee and a dessert at Counterspace, then go take the kids to Hug Your People Park. 

And it will also be the new home of both Porch & Parish and Gennaro Realty? 

Jen: Yes. After more than 12 years as an active residential Realtor, I’ve stepped away from sales and into a broker role to support our agents. My background is in journalism, and it’s been a lifelong dream to have my own publication. Over the past two and a half years, my passion for this work with Porch & Parish has grown, and I’m grateful and excited to be able to focus on the magazine, as well as developing out the digital side for our advertisers and readers.   

Mike: And my commercial realty office and podcast room will also be here across the hall on the second floor. Our commercial realty and personal projects will really be focusing on big projects that are giving more to the community.

Tell me about the backyard space

Mike: The house sits on two large lots, with a beautiful greenhouse and two existing structures. We’re going to be doing a lot back there. At first we just need to work on the pathways and everything to get it ADA compliant, but eventually it’s going to be almost a little farm. We’ll have a few chickens, and garden structures. 

There are two existing structures in the backyard that will either be renovated or demolished and rebuilt. There are a lot of plans that are being floated, but nothing is finalized yet. The one thing that’s for certain is that we’re going to maximize every square foot for a retail and community experience for Zachary. 

Jen: Counterspace will also host some of their events back there, and we’ll eventually resume hosting our Family Dinners and pop ups that we started in 2023 back there in the courtyard. 

What about the building itself? It’s a gorgeous house.

Jen: It was the first house rebuilt after the banana fire destroyed downtown in 1903. That railroad track that runs right by it was used to haul in the lumber for the house and then they milled it right here on site. It later operated as a boarding house for the workers who were building Highway 19, then operated as a private residence for the better part of the century. It has absolutely amazing architectural details. The hinges on the transom hardware say “made in 1889.” There are eight fireplaces, each with different, beautifully colored tiles. They aren’t operational, unfortunately–they’re actually built to burn coal instead of firewood. 

One last question. Mike Gennaro, barista?

Mike: I actually worked as a barista in New Orleans at Rue de la Course. I loved it. If no one else can, I’m planning to take on an early morning shift here before we get going with everything else. So, if you come in very early, you might see me behind the counter with an apron. The coffee shop will start out with just brewed coffee and cold brew, but the plan is to add in some espresso drinks later on in the spring. 

 Sarah Joy Hays, Owner, and Ryan West, Manager of CounterSpace Zachary. 

Photo by Jackie Haxthousen.

Interview with Counterspace

Few things have excited our readers like our announcement that Counterspace was coming to Zachary. If you’ve had the chance to visit their Jefferson Highway location, you know that they’re something very special. We sat down with founder Sarah Joy Hays and operations manager Ryan West and chatted about the history of Counterspace and what they hope to bring to the new Zachary location at The Press.

Jen: She’s literally living a Hallmark movie plot. After working in politics in D.C. for years, she moved back home, met and married her husband Adam, and opened a bakery. 

Sarah Joy: It all started with me experimenting with selling some baked goods at the Mid City Makers Market. This would have been back in 2017. I set up there once a month just to sort of get a little bit of experience with what it took to turn a hobby into something that could maybe be something more. Then after about a year and a half, I learned about a spot opening up at the White Star Market and I thought “heck, why not?” 

In 2018 we had the opportunity to get a brick and mortar shop on Perkins (behind Uncle Earl’s), and expanded to Jefferson Highway in 2022. Soon after it opened, we left Perkins because of an AC issue, so we were again back down to just the one location. 

I really wanted a space where we could do cooking classes and do “test kitchen” type activities, but I didn’t have a location in mind. I spoke with Jen and she asked if I would be willing to come out to Zachary. Within an hour I was up here looking at the house, and we both agreed that it was perfect for us. This whole process has moved very quickly. It went from an idea and a conversation to, hopefully, opening within four months. 

Meanwhile, though, I got a call from a developer who told me about another kitchen that was about to become available. They were looking for an established business to take over the lease. It turns out that it was the building that had been occupied by Gov’t Taco. The kitchen there is huge. It’s way bigger than anything that we have ever had before. The wheels started turning in my head and we agreed to make that location number three.

All of our locations will offer our signature products, but they will all have different purposes. The Mid City building will be our main kitchen. That will host our baking staff and will be where we are doing the majority of our baking for the community. It will have a storefront and seating as well, but its main function will be as our kitchen.

Our Jefferson/Bocage building will lean into entertaining, retail and baked goods. We’re going to have that space set up to really empower home hosts and give them all the tools that they need to make magic happen at their house. We will have take and bake options available at all of our locations, but those will be especially highlighted at that location.

Finally, we have The Press. We will be using this location to build community. Our head baker is actually the one who roasts all of our coffee, and we’re excited to introduce you to Fringe Coffee. I’m going to be teaching classes and working through new recipes in Zachary that we will then expand out to all of our other shops. We will also have a retail offering that gives you everything you need to make that special recipe that maybe you’ve been intimidated to try. We want to be sort of like how Williams-Sonoma was in its early days: a place where you can come find the things that take your cooking and entertaining to a new level. 

We’re six years into this business, and it feels like now we’re really starting to realize the dream that we had from the beginning. All the elements we hoped would be a part of Counterspace are finally becoming a reality. We’re so excited to be a place where everyone in the community can come to shop, learn, and enjoy some great food and coffee. 

Counterspace Zachary is hiring! Those interested should email [email protected]