Restaurant owner hires young job seeker after chance meeting

Art Bouvier with his newest employee, Jhaqueil Reagan.
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A chance meeting has led to an incredible opportunity for a hard working teenager who didn't even realize he was leaving a lasting impression that landed him a job in just hours.

"I'm out there everyday, trying to make a dollar," 18-year-old Jhaqueil Reagan told Eyewitness News Friday afternoon.

This morning, Jhaqueil was unemployed and broke.

"It's really hard," explained Jhaqueil of his search to find work. "There are a lot of minimum wage jobs. McDonalds, Burger...They don't want to hire a lot of people, because, I mean, they're afraid they don't want to show up for work or they're not dedicated to the job or they're just going to slack off the entire time. It's a shame because they judge everybody that way."

A walk through an east side restaurant's parking lot during Friday morning's nasty weather turned out to be the proverbial fork in what's already been a long road for this young man.

"He just says, 'Excuse me. Can you tell me how far it is to 10th and Sherman?'," said Art Bouvier, who was in the parking lot of his restaurant, Papa Roux.

Bouvier, who has owned the restaurant for six years was out clearing the parking lot of ice and snow when Jhaqueil asked for directions.

"I said, 'Buddy that's about six or seven miles to 10th and Sherman'," recalled Art. "I fully expected the next question was, 'Can you give me some money for the bus?' and it wasn't. He just kept walking."

Twenty minutes later, Art and his wife were driving down 10th Street and saw Jhaqueil - still walking.

"Here he is, walking down in the ice and slush, really walking down 10th Street and I thought, 'My gosh, he's legit. He really did need to go somewhere. It wasn't just a play for money'," said Art.

Art offered the teen a ride.

"I was really appreciative," explained Jhaqueil.

The conversation that followed, though, convinced Art this meeting was no accident.

"It was destiny," said Art, looking back hours later.

Art asked Jhaqueil where he was headed.

"He says, 'Well, I have an interview at a thrift store.' I said, 'An interview at a thrift store? You're walking 10 miles in the ice and snow to an interview in a thrift store?' I said, 'How much do they pay? They must be paying a lot.' He says, 'Minimum wage, $7.25'," recalled Art. "I just got to thinking, that's a good work ethic. If you're willing to walk 10 miles in this kind of weather for the promise of a job, then I don't think you'll have any problem actually showing up for the job."

Then, Art had an idea.

"I thought, 'I could probably hire you'," he said.

Art said he took Jhaqueil's number just in case and dropped him off for his interview at the thrift store. That "just in case" came hours later, when Art decided he was going to call Jhaqueil and offer him a job at Papa Roux.

When Art called, Jhaqueil sounded surprised, but agreed to come start whenever he was needed. Art went and picked the teen up that night and brought him to Papa Roux.

"I can show you the ropes tonight, if you want," Art told Jhaqueil. "We're a little busy in there."

Art was so impressed with Jhaqueil, he posted the story of their chance meeting on Facebook. Now, he's got regular customers offering to buy Jhaqueil a bus pass, so he can get to his new job, instead of walking three miles to get there.

"I get my work ethic from my dad," explained Jhaqueil. "He's worked his fingers to the bone all his life."

Jhaqueil said he's willing to do the same.

Now, thanks to a man who he didn't even know hours before, a complete stranger, Jhaqueil will have that chance.

The teen starts at Papa Roux on Monday morning.

Read Papa Roux's post on Facebook