Beginning on Friday, May 20, and ending on Sunday, May 22 — the same weekend as Bayou Boogaloo — Parkway Bakery & Tavern will be donating $1 from sales of every shrimp po’ boy sold to support transplant patients and programs.
The money will be donated to the Ochsner Transplant Institute through the Greg Smith Fund. The issue is important to the family that operates Parkway. Justin Kennedy, Parkway’s general manager, is an organ donor; he donated his kidney to his brother Johnny.
Johnny Kennedy learned he has a rare kidney disease while undergoing medical tests to enlist in the military. “You become a little fatalistic, I guess, when you get news like that. At least I did,” he said in an Ochsner video on their experience. “You look at life a little bit differently.”
The Kennedy brothers were overjoyed when they learned that they were a match for a kidney transplant. Johnny Kennedy has since become a father and looks forward to seeing his daughter grow up.
That life-saving kidney procedure also transformed Justin Kennedy’s perspective on helping others. “The feeling I got from helping my brother — I want to keep that going,” he said. “When there’s a crisis in the city, most of the time I’m there, helping out in my own way.”
Parkway offers comfort to disaster victims through “the power of the po’boy,” distributing sandwiches after a crisis. The free po’boy is, after all, a time-honored tradition in New Orleans.
Parkway bills itself the oldest still-operating po’ boy shop in New Orleans. The “bakery” in its name goes back to German baker Charles Goering Sr., who opened it in 1911 as a neighborhood bakery and corner store.
Henry Timothy Sr. purchased the bakery in 1922. He added the po’boy shop to Parkway in 1929 to join other businessmen who were feeding striking streetcar conductors free sandwiches, which became known as “po’boys.”
Meanwhile, he began selling the recently invented sandwich to workers at the American Can Co. across Bayou St. John. The factory operated around the clock, so the po’boy shop at the corner of Hagan Avenue and Toulouse Street became a 24-hour business. It was known for its juicy roast beef po’boys, a favorite of workers and neighborhood residents.
After the American Can Co. closed its New Orleans factory in 1988, Parkway Bakery & Tavern, then run by Timothy Sr.’s sons Henry Jr. and Jake, struggled without its influx of regulars. They shuttered the po’boy shop in 1993.
Justin and Johnny Kennedy’s uncle Jay Nix bought the building from the Timothys in 1996 to fix it up and use it as storage for his construction business. By 2003, Nix gave in to public pressure and opened the current iteration of Parkway Bakery & Tavern. It has since become one of the city’s premier po’boy shops.
The po’boy itself started as an altruistic gesture to help striking workers, and Parkway’s management continues the charitable tradition.
Parkway’s current Po’Boy for Life campaign benefits a fund that helps uninsured and under-insured Ochsner transplant patients offset some of the expenses of costly maintenance medications and other transplant-related expenses. This fund was started with gifts donated in memory of Greg Smith, a clinical transplant coordinator at Ochsner.
If you can’t make it to Parkway on Bayou Boogaloo weekend to buy a shrimp po’boy, you can still contribute to the Greg Smith Fund here.