GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Just in time for Festival of the Arts and the reopening of Rosa Parks Circle, a new sweets shop is celebrating its grand opening in downtown Grand Rapids.
“I think everybody’s excited for something different to be down here. And macarons seemed to be kind of like a new favorite crave. So, so far it’s been good. We’re excited about this weekend and hopefully the word gets out there that we’re here and, we can offer catering and other things not just inside the store,” said Bobbi Blanton, co-owner of Le Macaron French Pastries in Grand Rapids.
FROM DOG PIT TO DESSERT SPOT
The first of her three franchise stores is at 132 Monroe Center NW, right across from Rosa Parks Circle. Blanton and her husband William worked with CarbonSix Construction to transform the former Dog Pit into a “bright and welcoming” place for coffee and treats.
“(It’s) completely different. It was very dark, dreary. The floors were completely uneven… there was a huge old wooden bar all in here. The color was like a dark red. The lighting was terrible,” Blanton said. “We opened everything up, redid all the floors. We actually, because we wanted everything to be handicap accessible, widened the doorway and… put in a whole new front area. So yeah, pretty much redid the whole place.”
A crystal chandelier now hangs above the entrance. Black and white seating accent the pink walls. A mural by a Grand Valley State University graduate covers the back wall.
“Her background is more in floral so this is really out of her comfort zone and she did a phenomenal job. She definitely stepped up,” store manager Megan McCurdy said.
ON THE MENU
Inside the glass cases hugging one wall are dozens of desserts from eclairs, croissants and napoleons to gelato, chocolate and cakes. True to its name, Le Macaron also features about two dozen flavors of macarons, including bubblegum, chocolate lavender, key lime pie, lemon, raspberry, birthday cake and pistachio.
“They actually were recently featured in ‘The Bachelor,’” Blanton said of the bite-size desserts.
Blanton explained that a French chef makes all the desserts at Florida confectionery. The treats are then shipped overnight to their shop weekly.
At the Grand Rapids store, one macaron is $2.65 and six of them are about $15.
Blanton said she loves “chasing macarons” with her 16-year-old son and came across this franchise during a spring break trip last year. The Rockford native was impressed with the business and saw opportunity to realize another goal.
“For several years, we’ve been just trying to find something to be able to employ people with disabilities. And we stumbled upon this over spring break in 2021 and thought it was a simple model. So we have three or four individuals now employed,” Blanton said.
Blanton and her husband have been volunteers with the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan for nearly 12 years.
“I got involved in planning the events and helping do some of the events and just fell in love with the families and everybody. And we’ve just met lifetime friends and built relationships,” Blanton said. “We raised our two boys volunteering in the community and with the association as well and it’s just been eye-opening for them, too. They don’t see people with disabilities any different because that’s the way they are raised. And I just think that’s so important for everybody to know that.”
CONSTRUCTION SURPRISES, OPENING DELAYS
Blanton said they’ve been “very lucky” in finding and hiring employees but the business has come with challenges on top of supply chain issues.
When construction started in January, contractors discovered some problems that led to more work and pushed back their projected opening date.
“Originally we thought we would open in March, and then we thought April. And so here we are now, now it’s June. (But) with the Festival (of the Arts) this weekend, I think that’ll be great for everybody to be down here as well. So everything happens for a reason,” Blanton said.
Blanton previously owned an engineering company but she’s new to the food industry “so we’ve learned a lot,” she said.
She said she’s relieved to finally open Le Macaron. She’s already looking at ways to partner with the city.
“(Rosa Parks Circle) got delayed and we got delayed. And so this has actually worked out very, very well for us. We’re excited. We’re excited about winter, too. We have ideas of having like a hot chocolate bar in the winter for the ice skaters and so partnering with some of the events that go on there. So, very excited,” Blanton said.
Le Macaron’s grand opening celebration runs until 10 p.m. Friday. The festivities include face painting, free coffee and macaron tastings, special offers and a chance to win macarons for a year.
“The atmosphere is wonderful and I think it’s important to come and see the people that are working here,” Blanton said.
Le Macaron’s starting business hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays. Blanton said the store may stay open until 11 p.m. on weekends, based on demand.
Blanton said she is still identifying potential sites for the next two locations. She expects to open those shops in Holland and Traverse City in the next six to 12 months.