GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids building that sat vacant for years is about to become a French patisserie.
Chartreuse Sisters will be on the southeast corner of Wealthy Street and Eastern Avenue SE. Eastown natives Alyson and Mallory Caillaud-Jones have spent the past 18 months raising funds, obtaining approvals and renovating the building into their first café and bakery.
“What’s so funny is that Mallory and I actually grew up driving by this abandoned building our whole lives wondering what was going to go into it, not knowing it would be us! We originally were looking for a move-in ready space, however when our (realtor) encouraged us to look at this property, we couldn’t say no. As soon as we walked inside and saw the original floor tiles and ceiling, we knew it was the perfect location for our patisserie,” Alyson Caillaud-Jones stated.
The storefront at 800 Wealthy St. SE was first built in the early 1900s, according to Grand Rapids Public Library historian Julie Taberer. Library archives show it operated as a post office substation before becoming a city directory then different iterations of a drug store from 1929 until at least 1970, Taberer found.
Alyson Caillaud-Jones said the tiles in the entryway still spell out “Drugs” and they found a glass aspirin bottle from the 1970s in the basement. The storefront also contained vintage wallpaper with apothecary symbols and images.
“We were able to save a bit of it to frame and hang up in the storefront,” Alyson Caillaud-Jones said.
That piece of history will be surrounded by emerald green, golds, red velvet and warm lighting when the bakery and café open. The sisters plan to create an ambiance combining French patisserie and cocktail lounge vibes.
“We will have French music playing and customers are welcome to speak in French with us to get the whole Chartreuse Sisters experience,” Alyson Caillaud-Jones said.
The sisters’ new space builds on their family roots. Their mother is from France and they spent their summers with relatives in southern France.
“Both Alyson and I love Grand Rapids so much, we decided to both make it our home base. But in order for it to truly feel like home, we needed to bring a piece of France to our beloved hometown,” Mallory Caillaud-Jones said.
The sisters came up with the idea for a patisserie three years ago while sitting in a café in Detroit.
“Alyson turned to me and said, ‘This is what I want to do, I just want to open a café,’” Mallory Caillaud-Jones stated. “I told her ‘Well, why don’t you do it then?’ And she replied, ‘I will if you do it with me.’”
Chartreuse Sisters was born.
“We always knew we wanted ‘sisters’ to be in the name, but since our last name is difficult to spell and pronounce, we chose to go with a word that exists in both the French and English language: Chartreuse,” Mallory Caillaud-Jones explained.
The sisters started in their parents’ home kitchen, baking then taking their French-American fusion pastries to pop-up events and delivering monthly “goodie boxes” during the pandemic.
“I always loved baking, but never thought to do it professionally until Alyson gave me the push. I’m glad she did because I found my true passion was in pastry design,” Mallory Caillaud-Jones said.
Since Chartreuse Sisters has graduated from cottage food law operations to a brick-and-mortar business, the patisserie will now be able to serve up curds, crème patisserie, “basically all of the most delicious pastry items we weren’t allowed to make in the past,” Alyson Caillaud-Jones said.
On the beverage side, Chartreuse Sisters will offer espresso drinks and nonalcoholic cocktails containing nonalcoholic spirits.
The sisters say their newly retired father will be by their side when the business opens, helping them out in the kitchen to start. If all goes well, Chartreuse Sisters could open by early November, just in time for the holiday season.
“We are overjoyed to be opening to the public soon and cannot wait to create a welcoming space for our community. Throughout this process we have felt so supported by the other small businesses and can’t wait to become another small family business within Uptown Grand Rapids,” Mallory Caillaud-Jones said.