By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — Willie VanDenheuvel and Norm Bumbieris certainly sound the part.
When they talk about wanting to bring “a real Irish pub” to Slidell, you listen to the accent and realize they have a little more understanding about that kind of thing than those from Southeast Louisiana.
That’s because VanDenheuvel and Bumbieris really did grow up in an area where the Irish pub was real, and provided something for small neighborhoods that the twosome believe was missing from Slidell.
Coming to the United States from Australia and New Zealand, where the Irish Pub was a mainstay, they have brought that new concept to Slidell.
The longtime friends recently opened Shenanigan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, located at 2165 Gause Blvd. West, in a strip mall on Highway 190 near the North Shore Square mall.
“A true Irish Pub is a place where it feels like you’re home. You get together with friends, play cards, watch a game and generally want to hang out with people you know,” Willie said.
Shenanigans has only been open for several weeks but the owners said they have been quite pleased with the response so far, and already have regulars who are stopping by frequently.
“In the first seven days, we had some customers come in five or six times, and that was because we have already become friends with them,” Willie said. “There is truly a market for a friendship based pub, and that’s what we have started here.”
Willie came to the states from New Zealand and Norm is originally from Australia, but the two knew each other in that part of the world, working in the same business of handling “point-of-sale movie theater tickets” and related items that are sold in the movies.
Norm began his professional life in the Air Force and was with the police for 12 years, before moving into the computer world, that quickly transitioned to the use of computers in movie theaters.
Norm came to the United States with the business in 1993 and Willie had also gotten into the business, and followed to the United States in 1999. The two got to know Slidell when they worked the Gulf Coast area, that included Slidell’s own O’Neill Theater group.
“We were brought up in pubs, but never saw a real one in this area at all,” Norm said. “We always talked about one day opening our own Irish Pub and when we came to Slidell, we saw there was nothing like this here.”
Willie had some background in the business with a pub he owned in New Zealand for eight years, giving him some great experience about what works and what doesn’t in this kind of lounge/restaurant.
“It’s really about providing a family atmosphere where kids are welcome,” he said. “You could see that people were looking for something like this when we held opening night, and sold over 185 pounds of mashed potatoes and 76 pounds of corned beef.”
Not surprisingly, the menu offers items that are unique to Irish pubs, such as the signature dish called “Bangers & Mash,” which is sausage and mashed potatoes.
There is also the well-known Shepherd’s Pie, a Bally Castle Sausage Roll, and of course, Fish and Chips.
Norm, 56, and Willie, 51, still own their computer/theater business, but are clearly enjoying the new venture in life.
“We have a band on Friday night, but it doesn’t even take anything special for people to make this a place to stop by each evening and play cards, or just hang out. That is the atmosphere we are trying to provide and so far, it looks like Slidell wanted something like this,” Willie added.