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The Macaron Franchise Frenzy

Macarons are a symbol of true, French sophistication, and now enjoy their own franchise in the United States. Founded in 2009 by two French expats in Florida, the Le Macaron French Pastries chain recently inaugurated its 50th boutique in Yonkers, New York.

The Yonkers macaron boutique is located between a Gap store and an H&M. While wandering through the open-air shopping center in the New York suburbs, customers stop in front of a wooden sign wishing them bienvenue in French. Standing behind a glass counter, the manager of the Le Macaron French Pastries boutique welcomes two young women as they enter with a baby. “Bonjour! Hello!” calls Frank Kelly, who manages the tea room with his wife Sandra. Pointing to the multicolored array of macarons, the two customers quickly fill a box. “Two chocolate, two vanilla, two coconut, two lavender…”

This boutique opened last April, and is going from strength to strength. Frank Kelly employs six people, and sells between 2,000 and 3,500 macarons per day. Seven restaurants, a multiplex cinema, an indoor skydiving center and a Legoland theme park are located just a stone’s throw away, offering the boutique a constant influx of customers. The New York site regularly sells more than the one in Las Vegas, which is the overall leading franchise in terms of sales.

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Frank Kelly is the manager of the Le Macaron French Pastries boutique in Yonkers, New York. © Clément Thiery

Fifty boutiques in eight states

The brand now boasts 50 franchises in eight U.S. states and in Puerto Rico. Rosalie Guillem was living in Sarasota on the west coast of Florida in 2009, and was thinking of ways to bring her children to the United States. She came up with the idea of opening a patisserie, and partnered up with her oldest daughter, who was granted her E-2 Investor Visa, left Aix-en-Provence, and joined her mother in Florida. The first boutique was soon opened in a shopping center facing the ocean in Sarasota.

Word of mouth has worked its magic. Rosalie Guillem and her daughter opened a second boutique next to Orlando in 2012, then franchised their brand. Managers can obtain franchise rights for 30,000 dollars, and pay 6% of their weekly earnings to the mother-daughter duo. They are then responsible for renting the space, buying equipment and products, and paying their staff. The total investment is between 126,000 and 353,000 dollars, depending on the size of the boutique and its location.

The concept first piqued the interest of other French immigrants. Acquiring a franchise implies lower costs than opening a café or a restaurant, and also guarantees the E-2 Investor Visa. Almost 30 French entrepreneurs have already taken advantage of this strategy to move to the United States, and have opened Le Macaron French Pastries boutiques in Florida, California and Texas.

A third of the franchisees are now American. Frank Kelly is originally from New York State, and was the head of a repair firm when he met Rosalie Guillem at the 2016 International Franchise Fair in Manhattan. A white-chocolate and basil macaron was enough to convince him.

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The Le Macaron French Pastries franchise was founded by Rosalie Guillem (right) and her daughter Audrey in 2009 and now boasts 50 boutiques across the United States. © Le Macaron French Pastries

Twenty flavors of macaron

The macarons and patisseries are made in Sarasota, Florida, by 15 artisans including two French chefs-pâtissiers. Nearly 15,000 macarons are produced every day, and sent by refrigerated truck to the different franchises across the country. A total of 20 flavors of macaron are available, including chocolate, vanilla, coconut, Sicilian pistachio, blackcurrant, Earl Grey, gingerbread, lavender, raspberry and lime, dark chocolate and passionfruit.

In an atmosphere reminiscent of a modern boudoir the husband-and-wife team sell a little slice of French art de vivre. The couple have never been to France, but welcome their customers to the sounds of Serge Gainsbourg, Joe Dassin and Édith Piaf. “Our customers are not ordering a hamburger at a drive-thru,” says Frank Kelly. “They take the time to sit down, taste and really enjoy a macaron!”

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