Monday, April 2, 2012
Simon and I went on vacation in early March...FINALLY! We haven't been on vacation since meeting each other. Our first year, we were too broke, our second year, we were too busy. I had booked a trip to Paris for our two year anniversary and somehow, it totally worked out.
Right before leaving, we signed a lease for a beautiful space at 111 St. Marks Place. We're going to have the whole works there - cafe, bakery, kitchen, classroom, and outdoor garden! There's this really beautiful backyard and while we're sad to report that we can't use it for seating, we're happy to have an urban garden. I had started gardening when I was in middle school after my grandmother was unable to maintain the one in our backyard. I was a terrible gardener, although I tried hard (somehow grew an entire crop of corn that had baby tops, regular sized bottoms...). Hopefully this time will be better.
With the lease signed and knowing that much lay in the months ahead, we went to Paris with the purpose of doing "research and development." This meant buying and eating macarons from everywhere, and coming back to the US with 15 boxes of macarons to do a master taste test with ours. We also ate French brownies and cookies, and if you like the simplicity of American brownies and chocolate chip cookies, you will be disappointed b/c theirs have so many ingredients and are so complex. We made croissants and baguettes at Grenier a Pain. We ate baguettes every day, slathering them with rich butter and jam. We walked until our bodies felt older than our actual age and my hips started hurting, while Simon's ankle became strained. We visited museums, ice cream shops, flea markets, bookstores and many pastry shops. At the very end, we took engagement photos that ended up being way more amazing than I ever could have hoped for.
Then it was back to reality - less than two weeks after coming back, we had a Macaron Day pop up at our store. We basically painted the interior and exterior of our store with the help of my sisters and hung up a curtain to hide half of the store. A lot of people said that it seemed like we could just open up with the setup we have, but we have a lot in mind for our future space.
When I went to school last year to learn about culinary management, I was very unsure about the next steps for Macaron Parlour. We work in a commissary kitchen, but I had dreams of having our own kitchen, although not our own retail space. As much as I enjoy working with so many great people, I always felt like having our own kitchen would help streamline things for us a little bit. We wouldn't have to spend an hour getting things out of our storage space before starting production and an hour putting it away. We wouldn't have to search for equipment that may have wandered since the last time we used it. With all of that in mind, I had hoped to someday have our own tiny production space that was all ours. I thought that if we had our own kitchen, our business can grow.
But once I started the program, I realized that we were potentially much more than a wholesale/market business. Friends pointed out to us that people always ask us if we have a store. Simon and I noticed that many people believed that since we don't have a store, we must bake out of our home - including those we had approached to be potential wholesale clients. We saw that a store would give us a sense of legitimacy, and probably grow our business much faster than we could do without.
We found our space in January. I found a listing for it on Craigslist that gave a very vague impression of where it might be and I begged Simon to do a slow drive by whenever we were in the neighborhood with the hope that we could find it. It took about 3 trips before I finally found it, two basement retail locations on St. Marks Place. Then I had to convince Simon that we needed both sides and not just one of them. He didn't buy it at first, but he came around eventually once I drew a diagram of what it could be. Then we had to find a broker who was showing that space and would respond to us in a timely manner.
We thought that it would take 2 months before we got a lease to sign. Took us less than two weeks. Negotiations took another two weeks and we got the keys. I have signed leases for apartments in NY and while this was a little more complicated, it was still somewhat familiar territory. What wasn't familiar was everything that came next - finding an architect, thinking about the feel of the space, getting all of the specs for the equipment we're going to use, figuring out what we're going to sell and how to display it, lighting, electricity, plumbing, etc. There is so much to think about and no real guidebook on how to do it right, so we just have to plunge in and do it. I think we're a little slower on everything than we would like to be, but I think it'll be better for us to be more thoughtful every step of the way than to have major regrets in the future.
Opening a store is no easy feat, but we're taking our first baby steps and have our fingers crossed. We're lucky that Simon and I have great connections to people we trust for advice to help us on this journey.
While the store won't be coming together until this summer (hopefully), we do have several other fun things in the meantime. This weekend, we're going to be at the DeKalb Market for opening weekend (April 7-8). Then we will be doing the TAP-NY Night Market at the Downtown Community Television Center at 87 Lafayette St on Friday, April 13 from 6-10 pm. Then all will be quiet for a week so we can get married (YAY!). Then Hester Street Fair will be kicking off on April 28th. The following Friday, on May 4th, we'll be back at Madison Square Eats - spring edition. If things work out, we'll hopefully have some frozen macarons for sale there. There's plenty of opportunity for us to see each other before the store opens, so friends, please stop by and see us soon!