Saturday morning customers of Hamburger Happiness on Sibley Road could be sitting next to a talented artist without ever realizing it.
Daniel "Cooney" Melancon, a Saturday morning regular, makes detailed matchstick model shrimping boats.
"I actually got a brain-fart one day," Melancon said. "I said 'I'm gonna build a boat.' They said 'Aww man, you don't know how to do that.'
"I said, 'Yeah, I know how to do it,'" he continued. "I just got me some cardboard and made me a pattern and got at it. Started doing matches one at a time."
Melancon draws inspiration from boats he owned during his approximately five years of shrimping in the 1970's, a Lafitte Skiff and a Double-rigger.
"Each one is different – I don't have two the same," he said. "It's a hobby, that's all it is for me. Just a hobby."
Each boat takes up to four months to make, working on and off. Melancon makes cardboard patterns from memory and then uses Elmer's glue to adhere burnt wooden matches.
"You can't do a lot of matches; they want to start sliding on you," Melancon said. "You've got to give them time to dry. It takes time, you can't get in a hurry."
He then uses twine, clear plastic, hairnets and wooden spools for detail work.
"On one (boat), I put a steering wheel in it," Melancon said. "I put a bunk in it and wallpaper."
For his next boat, Melancon plans to add a working rotor and lights. Then he'd like to try his hand at making his matchstick structures articulate.
"I want to make a double-rigger with working outriggers," he said. "So they can go up and down like the real thing."
It takes around $60 worth of materials and as long as four months to complete a boat. Melancon estimates he has made around 10 boats. A few he gave away, but most he sold.
"People don't want to pay for them," he said. "They say they're just matches."
Melancon still owns only two of his creations, the one he made for his son and his most recent. His son's boat was returned to him after his son passed away around 10 years ago.
"Someone sold him methadone and Xanax and he smothered in his sleep when he was fixing to be 16," Melancon said. "When he died, his momma gave it back to me."
Melancon said that particular boat would never be for sale.