Lafayette restaurateur Ema Haq plans to expand food distribution biz with meat processing

Lafayette restaurateur Ema Haq recently purchased a $2.2 million property along Willow Street for his growing food service business.

Haq, who owns Bailey's Seafood & Grill and Ema's Cafe, is expanding his offshore catering and housekeeping company, Bailey Support Services, and his food distribution company, Emaco, at the Willow Street complex, which includes multiple office buildings and a warehouse on about 8 acres of land. He's also starting a new meat processing company that will specialize in halal and kosher versions of Louisiana specialties, such as boudin and tasso, for a national and international market.



"It won't compete locally," Haq said. "It will be basically targeting a special ethnic group."
The Scott property will undergo about $3 to $4 million in construction over the next year to renovate the existing office buildings, add about 10,000 square feet to the existing warehouse, and build a new building for the food distribution side of the business. The property's proximity to interstates 10 and 49 was attractive to Haq, as was its qualification for the Louisiana Economic Development's enterprise zone program.
Haq does not yet have a name for the new meat processing business he is planning to launch on the property. He does know he will specialize in kosher and halal meats, which must be butchered and processed with certain guidelines.
At a time when many Louisiana food distribution companies have been acquired by national brands such as Sysco, Haq has decided to expand his local brand.
"We have evolved," Haq said. "A lot of people relate me to my restaurant, but we do distribution and can mobilize very quickly. I think it will be a good campus."
Haq, a native of Bangladesh, has considered Lafayette his home since 1983 when he began studying engineering at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now UL.
At 60, he continues to invest in Lafayette in the hopes his three adult children will choose to move back to Lafayette after they complete their educations.
"I think they will," Haq said. "And if I can reach out and make things happen in Lafayette, then I think it would be a good investment. It would make me feel better that we can create lots of sustainable jobs."
Haq is known not only for his restaurant and catering businesses but also for his philanthropic causes. He has served a Thanksgiving meal to anyone in need at Bailey's for the past 30 years, and he treats students to a restaurant meal and teaches them about manners each school year. Haq said he's planning to do more good for the community through his latest endeavor.
"I have some good plans in the future to reach out to underprivileged kids," Haq said. "That's my passion."
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