WESTPORT, MA – December 15, 2021 — If you live in the SouthCoast, you’ve probably been to White’s. Lafrance Hospitality, known across the region for the mainstay event hall White’s of Westport, celebrated 75 years since its founders launched their first business venture with a holiday party on Monday.
“I can remember as a kid, being in the kitchen with my grandfather peeling carrots,” said Sean Lafrance, the company’s director of facilities and part of the third generation of Lafrance family members to help run the business. “Every day is still a new adventure.”
The party drew about 250 people, including dozens of former longtime employees.
In 1946, Aime and Rita Lafrance bought the White Spa, a diner on Pleasant Street in Fall River. The six-booth diner would expand to include a small empire.
In 1955, they opened what would become White’s of Westport. The company that became Lafrance Hospitality has since grown to include more than two dozen hotels, restaurants and event halls across New England and Florida.
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Richard Lafrance, CEO of Lafrance Hospitality and Aime and Rita’s son, said he’s especially proud of the way his family’s company has served generations of local families through every period of their lives. Their locations host everything from baby showers and wedding receptions to retirement parties and funeral repasts.
“The connection you make is very satisfying,” he said.
Lafrance said he has plenty of memories of high-profile visits to White’s, like former host of Meet the Press Tim Russert, and Gov. Michael Dukakis on the same day he announced his presidential run.
But, he said, “What I remember most is the days in the early ‘70s when we would do eight weddings on a Saturday… You can’t do that anymore.”
His three sons and daughter all work for the business, as does his son-in-law. And, a fourth generation is looking to get involved — some of his 10 grandchildren have picked up jobs with the business while they attend school and one is already a fulltime employee.
It’s not just members of the Lafrance family who tend to stick around for a long time. The company maintains a “hall of fame” for employees who work there for longer than a decade. It’s full of people who worked there for 20 or 30 years, and even some who started as high school students and stayed there for their entire careers.
Denise Andrade, who worked for the company for 38 years, met her husband, Ray Andrade, when he was a chef at White’s and she was a waitress. At a White’s employee holiday party, she worked up the courage to ask him to dance.
“And the rest is history,” she said. They’ve been married for 35 years. Ray retired with 48 years with the company under his belt. Denise’s sister, brother, mother and the couple’s three children would also all work for the company at one time or another.
“It’s been a family affair, really,” she said. “Thanksgiving in our house was always the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.”
– Written by The Herald News –