When opening The Jambalaya Shoppe in Pearland, Shelly Hayes was eager for the challenge of taking the concept established by Stefan and Cheryl Fontenot in Gonzales, Louisiana, and exposing a new area to the culture of Cajun food.

When the restaurant came to 12568 Broadway St. in December 2019, it seemed like she was off to a good start: The eatery had many catering orders, and people familiar with Louisiana delicacies stopped by when they learned The Jambalaya Shoppe had opened close to home, Hayes said.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing the restaurant to transition into operating only as a drive-thru with online ordering. Its catering took a hit as well as more people began working from home, she said.

“We barely got up and running and had to shut down the dining,” Hayes said. “We were rushing to survive and adapt.”

As the pandemic has subsided, The Jambalaya Shoppe has slowly begun to see an increase in overall business again. Just before summer, it saw an uptick of catering orders during graduation season.

“I feel like we’re basically having a re-grand opening,” Hayes said.

Being a Cajun restaurant in Pearland has been a unique challenge, she said.

Separate from the pandemic, Hayes said there is a large portion of residents who do not know much about jambalaya and similar foods. Hayes is happy to educate customers about popular menu items, such as the jambalaya combo, which comes with chicken and sausage on a bed of rice, two crawfish pies and gumbo.

Hayes said she is still focused on making The Jambalaya Shoppe a recognizable name in Pearland. When people unfamiliar with the style of food approach the restaurant, Hayes even offers them free samples of their food to try out, and she is confident that more likely than not, they will enjoy what they taste.

“We hook people,” Hayes said. “Once you try the food, you like it.”