Profile-Le Bon Macaron
"There’s a huge sense of pride in owning your own business. You built something. You’re sharing that passion with other people."
When we first moved here, I would wander around finding new places to explore. It was like an epicurean/fashion/home goodness treasure hunt. During one of my trips I happened upon Le Bon Macaron. I walked through the door and was transported to a chic Parisian cafe. Magic.
I sat down with Kelly (Owner) and her sister Chelsea to hear about the story behind the most delicate treat around. They both have the sweetest demeanor (and killer style). There is something really easy and beautiful about their relationship. They feed off each other's energy and deeply embody the heart of sisterhood. Note: Kelly also has the cutest daughter, evvvver. When I was there she was charming customers, having a tea party, and loving on her mama/grandma/auntie...not to mention rocking some amazing grey leggings #minifashionista
What was the inspiration behind your café? What did the beginning stages look like for you?
K: We started with Le Bon Macaron in East Lansing and wanted to open a location in Grand Rapids. We started with selling at the Fulton Street Farmers Market. We gained a nice following. It was almost like a little secret-people would come to the market to buy them or pick them up from my house. We were originally thinking retail and then selling macarons. Coffee was a last minute decision. We actually met with Rowster to get some ideas; it was a moment of understanding that we don’t know everything but we want to do this right. None of us were coffee drinkers at the time…
C: And now we are coffee snobs…
K: Same with tea, now we love it. We are the only ones in Michigan to serve that brand-it’s rare. I fell in love with it when I saw it.
I love that this is a family effort. How has working together in this capacity shaped the face of your business?
K: It has made us closer-we see each other so often. When we first started, Chelsea was living in France. I knew she had to be a part of it. My husband always comments that he has never seen anything quite like it, our interaction. It’s part of us; our grandpa started our original family business which was a bar in Lansing. It’s been a part of our entire lives. It’s daunting to start something like this without the support of your family. Everyone in the family has an entrepreneurial spirit…we work really well together in that respect. All of us play a part: my dad would bake, Chelsea runs the store and manages our social media outlets, even our grandma came with us when we first saw the space. We are looking at expansion into other parts of the state and my brother is now a part of that.
C: He just came in the other day to have lunch and hang out. It’s been nice to see each other so often and work together on something like this.
K: Also, our mom manages everything behind the scenes such as bookkeeping and payroll, and supports all of us in every aspect of the business.
Chelsea-did your time in France influence the store?
C: Yes. Especially the fact that we do cream puffs now. I kept sending over photos and saying that we needed to do these!
K: It influenced the coffee too. We didn’t want to do pour over, that just isn’t us. We loved the idea of French press; it was simple and reminded us of Europe. We wanted people to feel like they were stepping into a Parisian café when they came in.
What has been your favorite part of developing Le Bon?
K: It’s been an interesting process just because it isn’t like we sat down and said this is exactly what we want to do. It was born out of exploring and talking with each other about what we wanted. Also, watching our customers come in. We will have adult men sitting alongside teenagers, older ladies doing tea…there is something for everyone. They have evolved with us.
C: Not having wi-fi makes us unique. Some people don’t understand why we don’t but people come here and actually…talk. We don’t have people come in and sit behind computers they have a macaron, drink coffee, chat with a friend.
I know a lot of your customers like to come in to discover new flavors. What are some of your all-time favorites? New ones people need to try?
K: I love the salted caramel...also vanilla. When it’s cold it tastes like vanilla ice cream and has real vanilla bean in it. It’s vanilla’s chance to shine and I think is one of the best flavors we have.
C: I like salted dark chocolate and the chocolate peanut butter because it tastes like a peanut butter cup.
K: A new one is root beer which tastes like a root beer float…also chocolate passion fruit. We try and rotate them through the season; champagne was a holiday flavor originally but has stuck. Usually, we have around 30 flavors to choose from.
Other favorite places in Grand Rapids?
K: Winchester, Donkey…we go to both of those all the time.
C: Maru next door is also really good but lots of Winchster and Donkey. I live in this area so I’m able to walk to them which is great.
K: Osteria Rossa is another favorite. It’s tough to choose when there are so many good options.
What advice would you give someone who is starting some kind of new venture?
K: Support is the #1 thing. The support of our family and friends has made this, I couldn’t have done it without them. Everyone plays an integral role in the business-we couldn’t do this without each other.
C: Even my fiancée is working here when he visits. He has had to learn how to do everything so that he can help out.
K: Know you work everyday…if you aren’t physically in the space, you are working in your head. It’s rewarding but you don’t really leave your work you live through it. There’s good and bad with that. Talk to other business owners. A waitress we were talking to just connected us with her sister who was looking for advice. We have an employee looking to start her own ice cream business. Connecting with others as you begin helps you learn a lot. Also, be patient. That is a huge thing.
Sounds like that is from experience...?
K: Yes, it needs to be the perfect timing-you just have to be patient and make sure it’s the right time in your life. We wanted to be on Cherry Street, we knew it. There was a vague Craiglist posting that my parents called on. We didn’t know what to expect. When we saw the space we knew it was for us…everything seemed to fall into place.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of owning a business?
K: Chelsea has really gotten to know our customer base. She will start their drink as they walk in, she knows how they take it. There are “regulars” who come every week. I never envisioned that but it’s been really fun.
C: I have really liked connecting with people in the community. You get to know them and they have gotten to know us too…that’s been an unexpected part of this.
K: There’s a huge sense of pride in owning your own business. You built something. You’re sharing that passion with other people. It’s all of your work and ideas and then you’re able to see other people appreciate them.