The Little Daiquiri Factory That Could
The story of a man with a daiquiri and a dream.
There’s an unassuming plot of land in the middle of Johnston Street in the heart of Lafayette, Louisiana. It’s now home to a used car dealership. Thousands of cars drive by it every day, without a second thought, but it’s on that plot of land that a man from the small town of Ruston, Louisiana, would forever change the Pelican State.
In 1982, David Ervin opened the state’s first drive-thru daiquiri stand, called the Daiquiri Factory, as a novel way to sell a novel drink. Months in the making, Ervin struggled with questions of legality and whether or not he’d be able to sell his drinks to drivers without them having to leave the comforts of their car. He poured over legal documents to find any sort of clarification but, as he said in an interview with local news station KATC, “It never said you could do it — but it never said you couldn’t. So I figured I’d try it for a week, and if I didn’t get arrested, it was legal.”
Loan in hand, he secured a small plot of land on what was then the end of Johnston Street. The terms of the lease stated he could use it as long as no permanent structures were put in place. A small metal building with an oyster bed driveway was (temporarily) placed on the empty property, and the nation’s first drive-thru daiquiri shop was born.
Terrified of a failed business and owing money to his investors, Ervin’s opening day was anticlimactic. The open sign illuminating the small Daiquiri Factory stand went unnoticed among the hustle and bustle of Johnston Street. Thinking the worst, Ervin turned his thoughts to a backup plan and wondered how he would pay back the money he had borrowed. But as the sun dipped below the horizon, the cars started to arrive.
It wouldn’t take long for word to get out and the business to become a hit, aided largely by a massive media blitz and catchy radio jingle urging customers to “come on down” to the daiquiri shop. The public had taken notice of the Factory — and so had the police. According to Ervin, police would stake out the business, trying to catch drivers who might have over-indulged on their way home. In the meantime, Lafayette City Council was set to pass a city ordinance banning open containers in a vehicle.
Unsure of what was considered an open container, Ervin sent letters asking for a definition so that his business could comply. He never received an answer, so he took matters into his own hands: He decided that if there was tape sealing the lid, it was considered “sealed.” The day the ordinance went into effect, Ervin offered a big promotion to ensure business: 4,000 bottles of champagne to the first 4,000 customers.
The promotion also caught the attention of the local police, who promptly issued more than 40 citations to customers clogging traffic. Furious that his customers had been the target of the police, Ervin sued the city to get the tickets expunged. At the heart of the suit was the question of the open container. A favorable ruling for Ervin would set the precedent for what was to be considered an open container moving forward.
As luck would have it, the ruling came down in Ervin’s favor, and drive-thru daiquiri shops began popping up all over the state. The Daiquiri Factory closed its doors in 1987 — a victim of collapsing oil prices — but with hundreds of drive-thru stands opening across the state, it had forever changed the landscape of Louisiana.
To learn more, watch Daniel Phillips' four-part local news segment on David Ervin and his Daiquiri Factory.