By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
LACOMBE – As the saying goes, Tony Bondi is “all in” on the future of Lacombe, the historic community nestled quietly in the middle of St. Tammany Parish.
Bondi is the owner of the Lacombe Family Pharmacy right on the main Hwy. 190 strip going through the middle of town. A Slidell resident originally, he graduated from college with his Pharmacy degree and spent 15 years with the big national chain store at a Walgreen’s in Bogalusa.
But Bondi always liked the small town feel and finally selected Lacombe as the place to open his own pharmacy. In 2013, he purchased the building on Hwy. 190 that opened as Lacombe Family Pharmacy in May of that year.
Now nearly four years into the successful business operation, Bondi has become one of the key town leaders who has organized the Small Businesses of Lacombe group that is promoting local business, and also getting behind other town events. The organization is partnering with the Tammany West newspaper, the sister paper of The Slidell Independent, and will begin carrying special “Best of Lacombe” news and business pages in the publication.
The Small Businesses of Lacombe organization will have their third group meeting this Thursday, March 9 at 7 p.m. at Bayou Adventure, at 27725 Main St. in Lacombe. Any area business owners who want to be a part of the group are encouraged to attend, and that includes business owners from other communities.
“We have a lot of great businesses here in Lacombe, but we need to do more to promote them, as well as promoting the community and all we have here,” he explained. “So we are partnering with Tammany West. We hope to have a lot of local businesses start advertising on pages that are exclusively about Lacombe news, community events, sports and more.”
Bondi and Jan Raymond, owner of Oak Studios Cultural Center, came up with the idea to partner with the newspaper as a way to promote the businesses more, let the community know about the businesses, and also get more Lacombe news in the paper.
“Everyone around here loves the Tammany West paper since it’s just about news in St. Tammany Parish. So we came up with the idea of having several pages dedicated just to Lacombe. They will promote a lot about what we are doing here, businesses will get known better with their advertising, and it will help the paper grow as well,” Bondi said.
Tammany West Publisher Kevin Chiri added that “this is a win-win for the businesses, the paper and the community. We appreciate the confidence being shown in our publication and are excited for how much this could grow, hopefully to have a separate section of the paper just for Lacombe.”
The paper will add more distribution locations in local businesses, and add more newspaper boxes to the Lacombe area. The publication reaches 5,000 readers each week from Lacombe to the western side of St. Tammany Parish.
“Even a lot of locals aren’t aware of all the businesses we have in Lacombe,” Bondi said. “There are a lot more than you think and they have great products, great prices and offer unique things. This will help promote them a lot more.”
Not only is the project for the Small Businesses of Lacombe group going to help the business world there, but Bondi said the businesses want to do more for the special events in Lacombe each year.
Bondi has already shown his commitment to Lacombe by purchasing his building in town and now organizing the business group with Raymond. But he is also the sponsor each year for the Lacombe Christmas Parade, while also supporting the Mardi Gras parades each year.
The Lacombe Crab Festival used to be the biggest tourism draw each year for the community, but lack of sponsorships saw the longtime festival end a few years ago. Bondi hinted they hope to one day help the festival return to Lacombe.
“That’s down the road, but sure, we have talked about that,” he said. “Our main goal for now is to strengthen the businesses, and to promote the community events more.
“Lacombe is a great community and we want to build on the culture there is here,” he added. “We will get the activities known in the region thanks to the paper and from there we hope to keep growing the awareness of the community—both the business side and also about the events we have here.”
Anyone wanting more information on the organization can call Bondi at his pharmacy at 985-882-5999.