Sarasota startup 'Le Macaron' tastes sweet success

- Rosalie Guillem and her daughter, Audrey Saba, have created a sweet life for themselves in Sarasota.

"It's kind of a European feeling; the culture, the city, the beach. It's beautiful," said Audrey.

They wanted to bring a taste of their native France to their new home in America.

"We were looking for an idea to open a new concept here and I was observing what we have in France that I was not able to find here in the country and, going by elimination after elimination, I went with this wonderful little delicacy," said Rosalie.

The small, colorful delicacy she picked is the macaron. Not to be confused with another treat.

"We don't say ‘macaroons.’ Macaroons are made with coconut. Our product is macaron. French: 'macaron,'" explained Rosalie.

The named their store Le Macaron.

"What we like to say is it's a French store but everything is made in America," Audrey offered.

Audrey's husband, Didier, runs the kitchen where the macarons are made.  "Everything is natural ingredients. Everything is fresh."

So what is a macaron?  Rosalie explained: "A macaron is a French little delicacy. It's made with two shells. The shells are made with almond flour and soft meringue. Inside you have a different kind of filling. It could be a ganache or chocolate."

It took a moment for the idea to translate to the public.

"At the beginning when we opened the store, our American customer came in and said 'Oh, that's beautiful! What are they, mini hamburgers?'  No just macarons," Rosalie recalled.

The family ran into some challenges when they started the business in 2009.

"It was not easy in the beginning because it was the Great Recession. So it was really hard,” Audrey said.

Initially, the only chef was Audrey's husband.  

"We worked, like, seven days a week," said Didier.

But it didn't take long for the hard work to pay off.

"It spread just like that because when you have a very good quality of delicacy, everybody loves and talks about [it]. We started to have people driving from Orlando, from Naples, from Tampa just to buy a wonderful little macaron. That was just the beginning of the story," continued Rosalie.

The business that started in St. Armand's Circle began expanding in 2012.

"Now we have 50 stores,  so it's a lot of work but we do love our franchising, we do love our product, so it's easy for us, it's a pleasure for us," said Audrey.

And there's a lot more help in the Sarasota kitchen, not far away from the original store. It's where all of the macarons are made.

"We have 15 to 18 people working here every day," Didier proclaimed.

While the business has grown, Rosalie and Audrey said the experience of seeing someone tasting their product for their first time never gets old.

"I like to see our customers who never tried a macaron. I like to see their face when they bite in the macaron. It's like they walk on the moon for the first time.  They discovered something wonderful and they want to share it,” Rosalie smiled.

It’s a discovery that came from one country and blossomed in another.

"We work very hard but we started from nothing, from scratch.  And today, thank God, we are successful. This this is our American dream, that it's possible.”

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