Written by: Simonette Berry
Where can you encounter a giant gorilla, a baby dinosaur, a slumbering dragon, and an angel with a six-foot wingspan surrounded by a host of genuflecting saints? Not in your dreams or even Disneyland (they don’t have saints), but the epic statuary section of D and D Ornamental Concrete. D and D has been offering an inspiring collection of statuary, fountains, birdbaths, garden furniture, and garden ornaments since 1986. With four acres in Napoleonville and another acre at the Baton Rouge location, D and D’s huge selection, among other things, has made it the largest wholesaler and retailer of statuary in Louisiana.
D and D was founded during the oil bust in the 80s and has grown steadily since its inception, thriving even through today’s recession. Founder Mike Dubois grew up working with his parents, Helen and Paul Dubois, at Dubois Nursery in Houma, where they carried a small selection of stone statues. Mike and his wife, co-founder Patricia Dubois, were attracted to the idea of being makers of their own destiny. With the help of Mike’s parents and a retiring statue manufacturer that offered to show them the tricks of the trade, the young couple started D and D Ornamental in 1986. “We started selling to other nurseries that I knew through my mom’s shop, and pretty soon I had a steady clientele. Almost every year we’ve earned more than the one before,” he says.
Patricia worked by Mike’s side as a statuary painter for the first 10 years the business was in operation. Now, she runs the Baton Rouge store and manages the accounting while Mike focuses on sales, production, and fountain installation at the Napoleonville location. People come through both stores on weekends in droves. Though D and D does a good bit of retail, the biggest business comes from wholesale customers; the company serves hundreds of them throughout the Gulf Coast region. “Wholesale was always our biggest market,” says Mike. “My mom’s nursery business gave me lots of ready-made connections, and word spread fast. For the first 15 years or so, it was word of mouth only. We didn’t need to advertise; we could barely handle the business we had! Now, we’ve expanded enough to advertise, and about seven or eight years ago we created the website. People can shop from their homes just by looking through the online catalog.”
“A lot of people come out just to look around. If you come here, make plans to spend a little time so you can see everything. We love having people, and we hardly ever lose customers once they’ve bought from us. Our prices are very competitive because we make 80 percent of everything we sell. So many people say to me they can’t believe how good our prices are, but I explain that we try to give our customers the same benefits we have.”
Mike pumps new life into the business every year with original sculptures, fountains, and ornaments. “We hire a sculptor from time to time to create new work or to do commissions. He’ll come into the shop and sculpt the pieces, and from those we make our own molds. He just did a huge fleur de lis fountain for us. He’s done giant tigers, 14-foot alligators, large Jesus and Mary statues, life-size angels, all sorts of things.”
“Our religious statues are very popular, especially here in the South. People tend to buy them especially after hurricanes, I’ve noticed. We have a lot of original religious pieces and a large selection, so people come from as far away as Houston, Shreveport, and Lake Charles to get them. It’s a fun way to meet people. The Wall Street Journal even did a feature in 1999 about our Virgin Mary statues.”
Driving around south Louisiana, you’ll find D and D pieces proudly displayed in front lawns, schoolyards, church courtyards, and businesses. St. Charles Avenue’s twin vistas, Audubon Park and Tulane University, are dotted with D and D classic benches, urns, and planters. Less than a mile away, Ursuline Academy has a seven-foot custom-made religious statue on their lawn. “The 12-foot-tall crucifixes with Jesus are popular around here, tooâ€”you’ll see them out on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge and in some of the church courtyards,” says Mike.
D and D statues are also popular for lighthearted lawn decor and advertising gimmicks. “The big blue gorilla statue on Highway 90 is ours. There’s one like it in Plaquemines Parish in a man’s front yard. He dresses it up like Santa, the Easter Bunny, sometimes like an LSU player. He makes the news just about every year,” he chuckles. “It’s a good feeling to ride down the road and see pieces you made 20 and 25 years ago in people’s yards. It’s a good feeling to make something that people want,” says Mike.