At peak times, expect to spend up to three hours, from check-in to check-out, in the company of the notoriously abrasive Yamazaki, a bit of a performance artist who slings sticky rice to a Bob Marley soundtrack that is occasionally drowned out by his own bellowed insults.” Also on the doors in recent years were warnings that days were numbered for the restaurant, as Tony and Kazue Yamazaki creeped closer to retirement. Yamazaki was always vague about the timing and kept cooking, the signs serving notice: Get your Tony Food while you can. Yamazaki said arthritis in Kazue’s hands was taking its toll. (“I don’t want her to die in the kitchen or anything,” Tony, 69, said of his wife, 76.) So in March, they closed the doors and sold the building. Conley said he knew that day was coming and had been planting seeds with Yamazaki. Yamazaki has been a friend of Conley’s parents, Tom and Terre, and a patron of the Tick Tock back to the days when the tavern was a tiny box pushed right up against the curb along North Ninth Street Road. (That building, which had been a tavern since 1947, came down 15 years ago to make way for road widening. The new Tick Tock opened a short throw away.) “Tony’s known me since I was in diapers – as he always tells me,” Conley said. “So I kind of grew up with him.” Conley bought the business from his father three years ago. He returned to Lafayette from several years in Bloomington, Illinois, where he was part of the operation that ran Pilot Flying J Travel Centers. Conley returned with what he called a playbook mentality, in which he did best by following what corporate folks told him worked best. When he took over the Tick Tock, a similar pattern settled in, this one driven by tradition and comfort of a place he’d been around all his life. “I came in and thought, ‘Hey, everything’s been working, we have our loyal customers, why mess things up?’” Conley said.
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