Couple to Open French Bakery Concept ‘Au Pain Doré’ in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market Area as Part of Expansion [Interview]

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Jeff Morgan and his wife Ardita Karaj have a background in the IT sector but their passion these days is for French bakeries.

The couple, who own a Brioche Dorée franchise, a Parisian bakery cafe at the TD Centre in downtown Toronto, are also planning to open in the near future an Au Pain Doré franchise location in the St. Lawrence Market area of the city.

They opened their Brioche Dorée location last November. That French brand is located around the world in about 40 countries with a small presence in North America.

“The store is a French bakery. It is famous for bringing that fast food concept in the French world,” said Karaj. “It is French food with a high quality, fresh-baked daily but it’s in a fast-serving environment.”

Image: Au Pain Doré

“It’s kind of a grab-and-go. Although we have seating there, because of its location and everything else, it’s not a place that people tend to linger. We service a lot of the office buildings in the area,” added Morgan.

Morgan said the new Au Pain Doré brand that the couple is opening, started in Montreal as a family-owned bakery since the 1950s. 

Morgan said the brand carries all the French pastries, the breads, desserts, salads and soups, and very good coffee.

“It’s considered more of like a neighbourhood place where people will linger around,” he said. 

Morgan said the new Toronto location for Au Pain Doré is currently under construction with opening now scheduled for either late September or early October. 

“It’s going to be the flagship Au Pain Doré in Ontario. It’s a large location. We’re really making it a nice, nice store. With nice furnishings. A great experience. This is a showcase of this brand in Ontario,” said Morgan, adding that the brand will likely continue to expand in Ontario and beyond with additional franchises.

The location will be just under 1,900 square feet.

Image: Au Pain Doré

According to the company’s website, In 1951, Roland and Odette Étienne settled in the Rosemont neighbourhood of Montreal. Five years later, with support from Montreal’s Basque community, the Étiennes purchased a bakery with two Mignolet ovens on Marquette Street.

“In its early days, the bakery’s golden-crusted baguettes and French breads attracted restaurant owners. It was only in 1983 that the first Au Pain Doré bakery opened in a converted former garage, finally giving local residents the opportunity to also enjoy the quality of genuine French bread.

The Marquette Street bakery was such a success that it wasn’t long before Au Pain Doré’s quality began to spread across the city. A location opened on St-Denis Street in 1991, followed by Peel Street downtown and Laurier Street in 1992. Three more addresses joined the family in 1995: McGill Street, Mont-Royal Avenue and Côte-des-Neiges. The growing demand for breads, pastries, sandwiches, desserts and other delicacies also meant a growing challenge with regard to production and multiple daily deliveries,” says the corporate website.

“To overcome the challenge, the Atelier Boulanger rue de Rouen was opened in 1997. Here, bread is handmade under ideal conditions and continuously fine-tuned by a desire to blend expertise and technology. Proud of its success, the thriving family-owned company continued its expansion by opening six more locations in Montreal and Laval.

“In 2008 Au Pain Doré attracted the attention of Le Duff Group, also experts in high-quality bakery and owners and operators of several international brands throughout the world. Au Pain Doré became part of the Group, which shares the same ambition as the three generations of the Étienne family who had been part of the business through the years: to strive for excellence, and to pride itself on being the reference for traditional French bread in Montreal.”

Image: Au Pain Doré

Le Duff Group also owns the Brioche Dorée brand.

Karaj said the couple is typical of the target customer. They love French food and a French bakery. But they couldn’t find anything in downtown Toronto for their tastes. There was nothing within walking distance for them.

“We opened Brioche Dorée to fill an empty spot that we had for ourselves. What we’re aiming for is customers either commercial or individuals who enjoy good French food that is homemade and is not like packaged and delivered. It is homemade daily,” she said. “It is done with simple and original ingredients. 

“Toronto is a foodie city. There are so many people here that are so diverse in food tastes and we’re making the French food more accessible and not at a high price in a comfortable environment in a neighbourhood that fits with the whole Au Pain Doré community.”

“You walk in and we’ve put the ovens out front so people can actually see them,” explained Morgan. “At our new store people are going to be able to see the people prepping the food. The oven is there. You’re going to have the heavenly smell when you open the door.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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