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Bayou Home | Monroe Mojave

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Home
May 1st, 2024

photography by KELLY MOORE CLARK

The name Monroe Mojave was suggested by Joy’s mom, who is of Cherokee descent. Mojave means “beside the water,” and Joy took on decorating the space herself. Having always loved the desert, Joy recreated Joshua Tree, a minimal, yet warm design featuring terracotta, stone, and wood accents. The Monroe Mojave space is intimate, an enclave of sorts, where guests can relax into a feeling of being somewhere else.

For Joy and Clay Caissie, hospitality is the heart of their home and their hometown. As local Airbnb owners since 2018, Joy and Clay have welcomed Monroe visitors and staycationers to their Bayou Joy properties situated on Bon Aire Dr. and Bayou Desiard on the ULM campus. Originally Clay’s parents’ home, the couple renovated the property to welcome guests into their sanctuary – to share their slice of the bayou with future friends. Hundreds of visitors have stayed at Bayou Joy properties, including the newly renovated Monroe Mojave right next door. Guests leave little notes and drawings, highlighting their appreciation of Joy and Clay’s special brand of hospitality. With nightly boat rides and chats around the fire, Joy and Clay love interacting with people, sharing stories of Clay’s time on the road and the couple’s love of the Monroe/West Monroe area. 

Joy and Clay met in the halls of West Monroe High School. Post-graduation, a fateful stint in Dallas opened doors for Clay in the music industry. He relocated to Nashville, his home base for the next 25 years, though he spent most of his time on the road. He learned the business, serving as guitar technician and tour manager, traveling domestically and internationally with big names across several music genres. Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Aerosmith, Michael W. Smith, Chris Tomlin, Maren Morris, Keifer Sutherland, Hunter Hayes, Old Dominion, Need to Breathe – Clay has toured with them all, most recently with Springsteen in Europe. Essentially, Clay is a culture-creator, always in charge of hospitality on the road. While Clay explored the world, Joy explored marriage and motherhood. She was nurturing kids, and he was nurturing bands. Working at Vantage and then single with three kids, Joy had little time to dream of what her life might look like as an empty-nester, though the friends kept in touch. Joy loved hearing about his escapades, and Joy reminded Clay of home. When Clay’s grandfather’s funeral brought him home in November of 2016, Clay brought Joy back to the bayou that night to visit with his parents. They took a boat ride and talked throughout the night, as Clay’s parents had known Joy for years. That night’s festivities on the bayou would become the template for their future guests.

With his grandparents home on the bayou now vacant, Clay mentioned turning it into an Airbnb rental, knowing they were lucrative in Nashville. Joy loved the idea. Having stayed in a bed and breakfast in upstate Arkansas, she always dreamed of operating one. They decided that Joy and Clay’s Mom would eventually run the property while Clay toured. In the year prior, during Clay’s visits home, the couple kayaked and boated on the bayou, falling in love with their hometown together all over again. On her 40th birthday, Clay invited her friends to bring their favorite albums on vinyl. He then created a wall of records – some of them signed personally. He told his Mom on the back porch that he wanted to marry Joy, though he was scheduled to head out on tour in four weeks, so the couple threw a surprise wedding before he left. 

With two kids still living with Joy, Clay needed more space for his expanded family. He had purchased the home of Mama Lynn, his parent’s neighbor, and was eyeing the house across the bayou that had sat empty for years. As Joy’s father was battling cancer, Joy wanted her parents close by. When Clay randomly called the owner of the house across the bayou, he was just about to put it on the market. Clay purchased the home, and Joy’s parents moved in soon after. What the Caissies find so beautiful about their expanding homestead is that all these houses were built to take care of people, and they nurtured their combined families. Now Joy and Clay want to expand that hospitality to the broader public, providing an oasis right in Monroe. 

Mama Lynn’s home featured a mother-in-law suite, a small escape that Clay expanded into a rental for a couple. Monroe Mojave is now open to the public. The name Monroe Mojave was suggested by Joy’s mom, who is of Cherokee descent. Mojave means “beside the water,” and Joy took on decorating the space herself. Having always loved the desert, Joy recreated Joshua Tree, a minimal, yet warm design featuring terracotta, stone, and wood accents. The Monroe Mojave space is intimate, an enclave of sorts, where guests can relax into a feeling of being somewhere else. The front porch features pass-through windows, where guests can sit on either side, allowing the outdoors into the space. Joy’s Mojave accents include local estate sale finds and artistry, cementing the calming, desert vibe. Mojave features Monroe products like Seventh Square Coffee as the Caissies want guests to experience all Monroe has to offer. 

As you walk into the Monroe Mojave property, the stoned path leads through luscious green landscaping that catches the wind off the bayou. The porch features chairs for relaxing in the breeze and stools to dine under the pass-through windows. Inside the front door, the open concept kitchen and living room is stunning in its articulation of a desert oasis. Each piece of furniture tells a story, including the unique arched couch from the estate sale of local OBGYN Dr. Ralph Armstrong. The brick pavers accentuate the natural elements in the space, adorned with neutral jute rugs. Clay poured the concrete countertops, and Joy added the open wood shelving. Neutral rattan light fixtures add to the layered effect of natural tones throughout. Large open windows along the living room wall allow visitors to relax in the indoor/outdoor atmosphere. The large open shower also features the brick pavers, with a large cross recess and rain showerhead, for unwinding at the end of the day. In the bedroom, the natural elements are continued with a steer head above the large bed. Again, a large window allows the outdoors in, or visitors can opt to close the curtain and sink into the comfort of solitude. The one-bedroom Monroe Mojave is ideal for singles and couples, those looking for a place to relax right on the ULM campus. 

The Caissies see themselves as hospitality ambassadors for Monroe, West Monroe, and ULM. They are encouraged by the collective work of Mayors Friday Ellis and Staci Mitchell, alongside ULM President Ron Berry’s community outreach. They know if we all work together, sharing the same vision, this area can be a destination spot for tourists. If people have good experiences when they stay here, then they leave with a good impression of our area, will tell others, and are likely to return. 50% of Monroe Mojave’s business is returning guests. People like their experience here on the bayou, and that inclination to come back rests solely on the efforts of Joy and Clay. The couple are on hand to welcome their guests, offering boat rides in the evenings and Bayou Biscuits in the morning. Once a lady stopped as she was traveling from Laurel, Mississippi to Dallas, Texas, after burying her husband. She cried as she pulled up to the property. The canoes against the houses mirrored those on her husband’s funeral program. This was where she was supposed to be. Numerous stories such as these are etched into the Caissies’ hearts and reflected in the Bayou Joy guest book. 

Now empty-nesters, Joy and Clay are expanding their family to include every visitor that graces Bayou Joy’s doors. When Clay was on tour recently in Copenhagen, he showed one of the tour VIPs named Sarah around the city and behind the scenes. When Clay returned home, he found Joy in tears with a package in her hand, asking “Who is Sarah?” Joy held a record with the inscription, “Joy, I knew the best way to thank Clay for his hospitality was to love on you. Please add this record to your collection. Love, Sarah.” Now Joy is able to travel with Clay, seeing the world she only heard about from his stories. And Clay gets to see the world again through his wife’s eyes. Now when Clay goes on tour, musicians ask, “How is the bayou?” They know about Monroe and want to see the oasis that Clay and Joy have created. The Caissies’ Southern style of radical hospitality beckons far and wide, and we’re lucky to have Bayou Joy right here at home.