Humans of Hammond

booming in downtown before downtown was booming


Brynn Lundy/The Lion's Roar

Paul Murphy (left) and Rick Colucci sit in a booth at Brady’s Restaurant on SW Railroad Avenue in Downtown. They co-own three restaurants: Jacmel Inn and Brady’s in Hammond and Nuvolari’s in Mandeville. The two have been business partners for over 40 years and have had an even longer friendship.

A decades-long friendship and business partnership between two New York natives, Rick Colucci and Paul Murphy, has contributed to Hammond’s life and economy since the late 70s with the establishment of two of their restaurants: Jacmel Inn and Brady’s Restaurant. 

The pair left New York––sometimes together, sometimes separately––finding work and gaining experience in different parts of the country. In 1973, Murphy headed to Louisiana where his brother Richard was attending Southeastern. Colucci joined him in 1976.

That year, the three of them borrowed $50,000 from the bank, signed the corporate documents, and opened Jacmel Inn in 1977. 

“We just saw a need and an opportunity. There was an opportunity to maybe do a restaurant in Hammond, so we decided to gamble and take a risk,” Murphy said. 

Colucci described himself as a “drifter” during the time they spent traveling and working––from  Hawaii to Colorado to the Virgin Islands––after he graduated from Cornell University in 1969 and Murphy from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1971. 

“I think I was talking to Paul about being on two interstates, a college town, and the possibility of being in the restaurant business. So I came down. At that point in my life, I had to get a little more serious,” Colucci shared.

Located on Southwest Railroad Avenue, Brady’s opened in 1980. It is a full-service eatery with classic American and Louisiana cuisine with an Irish-inspired name and the feel of a New Orleans oyster bar. Jacmel Inn is just outside the downtown district on East Morris Avenue, a spot where folks can experience fine-dining with Creole, Italian and Caribbean cuisines. 

Murphy said, “All the places we’ve been––like Hawaii, the restaurants he worked in Maui, Hawaii, and upstate New York and Connecticut, and I worked in Colorado––we brought all those things from those places and those visions. We brought a lot of our experiences from around the world.”

Until the late 1990s, Brady’s, Mariner’s Inn and Lee’s Drive-In were the few restaurants in the downtown district. Now there are more than 20. 

“It was a culture shock in a way to the average person in Hammond 43 years ago. Brady’s downtown was an anchor like Paul would say, but it was more of the college kids. Now I’ve had second-generation people work here of the people that worked here back then and even come after that––third generation,” Colucci said.

The pair’s businesses persevered throughout the decades despite issues such as economic downturns, natural disasters, and the coronavirus pandemic. Murphy and Colucci opened Nuvolari’s, an Italian restaurant, in Mandeville after Richard passed away in 1982. 

“It gave us three legs on the stool, so when one leg is not working as well as the others, the others give us support. Financially, ’86 to ’90, the income that came through there helped us to maintain the overall stability,” Murphy said.

Both Murphy and Colucci married women from the Hammond area who attended Southeastern. Colucci said that much has changed since their early days in business, including Hammond’s explosive growth in the last five years.

Colucci said, “If someone told me 20 years ago that there would be 20-something restaurants in Hammond, I’d say there’s no way I’d still be in business. Business is still good, but Hammond has turned into this unbelievable restaurant town.”

According to Colucci, it was no problem for them to put in the time and effort necessary to get their businesses up and running because it was what they loved to do.

“Find a business that you really love because it’s a long haul. You gotta like what you do or don’t do it. You better have a passion for it,” Murphy said.