The talk of the town is French.
Marie Blachére, a French bakery and café with over 500 locations in France, opened its doors to fanfare at 550 Middle Neck Road in the Village of Great Neck last week, with hundreds flocking to the franchise’s first outlet in the United States since then.
Marie Blachére – the owner of the franchise, not the company itself – said that since the grand opening Feb. 12, they have heard “a lot of compliments” and waves of customers have kept them very busy.
“We have 500 bakeries in France and we have a lot of people come to [the ones in] France, but not like this here,” Blachére said, adding that things have been a little “crazy” but very good since the opening.
Kris Torkan of Villadom Corp, the landlord that owns the building, said it was built as an incentive to get Marie Blachére to Great Neck and the franchise was given what he called “preferred rent.” Daniel Torkan and Richard Solomon brokered the deal, he said.
Incentive was also provided by Mayor Pedram Bral and the Board of Trustees with the design of the building and allowing for rooftop seating, Torkan said, and that without their “help and vision,” it wouldn’t have been possible.
“We were searching for a strong brand to come into the community,” Torkan said, noting that the franchise was voted as having the “best bread” in France for four years in a row.
And turnout certainly has been strong, Torkan said, with an average of 800 people per day lining up for an assortment of breads, pastries, sandwiches and pizza.
“It is double what they expected to start,” he said.
Among the hundreds were Great Neck resident Corine Haidatov, who heard about Marie Blachére on the Great Neck Mommies Facebook group, and her two sons. She said the outlet appears to offer not only a wide variety of attractive food, but also a much-needed place for people to come together.
“A lot of people are saying good things,” Haidatov said.
Great Neck Village Mayor Pedram Bral described the bakery’s opening as a product of negotiations, an example of the kind of businesses that can be drawn to the town when given the right incentives, and as “the most amazing development, I believe, in our peninsula.”
They were also able to “cut through red tape” and secure rooftop seating slated to be open sometime in the spring, Bral said.
“They said [the reception] was unmatched, they’re extremely happy, and I wanted to congratulate the people of Great Neck for supporting such an amazing store,” Bral said. “I hope we can continue revitalizing Middle Neck Road the right way with proper businesses and smart development.”
Products made from traditional French-inspired recipes are baked and prepared on site in front of customers with the ingredients mostly sourced from U.S. food producers.
Among its menu items are artisanal breads, baguette sandwiches, French sweets and a mix of American fare and beverages like macchiato, cappucino, latte, house coffee and cold brews.
While not fully kosher, the bakery does not use shellfish or lobster products.
“New Yorkers have sophisticated taste when it comes to food, especially their breads and pastries. They want high quality, authentic, fresh food made from only the best ingredients,” Christophe Besnard, the international business development coordinator, said late last year when the bakery’s opening was announced. “That is what Marie Blachére stands for and that is what our reputation is built on.”
Sisters Nora and MaryAnn Kelly of Flushing, who found out about the opening in a newspaper and came there for the first time Feb. 19, said they believe Marié Blachére of Great Neck has “great opportunity.”
“Finding a bakery, a real kind of bakery, is very difficult,” Nora said, “so I think people will be attracted.”
Maria D’Amelio, a Great Neck resident since 1974, may be one of those people.
She said she had made three visits to the bakery this week, the last time for a tart – and it probably won’t be the last.
“I’m here for more,” D’Amelia said with a laugh, “so I think that I’m going to get a lot of weight as long as they’re here.”
The business can be reached at (516) 487-0864. Its hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Anyone considering working at Marie Blachére is encouraged to stop by in person with a resumé.