UNIVERSITY PARK -- Make no mistake that Le Macaron French Pastries is a Sarasota business through and through.
Yes, the bakery and shop on Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota is filled with French delicacies and the owners parlez vous Francais, but the dream started here because it evoked thoughts of home.
"It's like a European city," co-founder Audry Saba said. "There's a lot of culture, art, it is beautiful and a lot of people come from all over the world."
Her parents Rosalie and Gregory Guillem, first came to Orlando to experience the American dream of owning their own business. They later visited Sarasota and fell in love with the area's international feel and to enroll their daughters at Pine View School. Saba, who has a degree in human resource management, followed, coming to Sarasota with her husband, Didier Saba. The family also noticed that one European comfort was missing -- macarons.
"In France and in Europe, you can find them everywhere," Saba said. "It's crazy -- macarons everywhere -- kitchens, in books, on pillows, aprons. I was asking my mother if there were
macarons in the United States, and there were none here."
The macaron is a French delicacy made with two baked almond flour shells with a filling in the middle. The flavors range from ganache, buttercream, lemon, jam and even basil with white chocolate. The pastries are about an inch in diameter and an inch thick, averaging about 80 calories each. They're not even close to the similarly spelled American macaroon, a coconut cookie.
"Usually you eat something you can smell, but with the macaron, you try it, you taste it and then you feel the flavor," Saba said.
On Oct. 16, Le Macaron will take advantage of the new Mall at University Town Center to open its first-ever kiosk location and offer macarons, gelato, fine chocolates and coffee. The kiosk, being made in New York before it is assembled at the mall, will be on the second floor between Anthropologie, Michael Kors and the elevator.
"It's going to be a gorgeous place," Guillem said. "It's going to be a very attractive, very beautiful mall. We are very proud to be part of the new mall."
Le Macaron will join other Sarasota-based retailers Sweet Doctors, Jackie Z Style Co., Natural Comfort and FootGear Outdoor in the mall.
"Since we are from Sarasota, we wanted to be there for the new mall, too," Saba said.
"Someone from Sarasota has to be there," her mother chimed in. "We are very proud our shop started out in Sarasota."
While the kiosk will be smaller than their stores, it will still accept custom orders on macaron towers for weddings, tea parties, corporate gifts and will deliver catering orders in the Sarasota area -- something not offered at other locations. The kiosk will also have a special of buy of eight macarons get two free for the grand opening, Guillem added.
Pastries for everyone
The family has a feeling Americans are ready for macaron madness. The family started franchising the business two years ago and has 17 locations in Florida and 11 under construction, including a deal for six locations in the Las Vegas area plus a store in Puerto Rico. They're also familiar with Taubman Centers with a store in Tampa's International Plaza.
The St. Armands Circle shop will celebrate five years in business this year and in 2013, Le Macaron opened a small storefront in the former Beanz Man shop at The Colonnade shopping center, 2300 Bee Ridge Road, where the bakery serves the three area locations.
Didier Saba is the chef who delicately makes each shell and makes the fillings from scratch -- free of preservatives. All Le Macaron's versions are gluten-free and don't use artificial ingredients, Guillem said.
Other macarons found in the area are either imported from France or use an Italian recipe is more similar to a dry cookie, the family said.
"You're going to start to see them everywhere and in every place," Saba said of the macaron. "You're going to try them and you're going to see the difference between ours and them."
Le Macaron's pastries have a shelf life of about four to five days whereas imported ones with preservatives may last for weeks, Guillem said.
New mall, new flavor
Didier Saba is also working on an exclusive, new flavor just for the mall opening: chocolate with orange grand marnier.
"Everything is baked here. There's nothing bad that is put inside," the chef said.
With growth humming along for the macaron nationally and locally, the Guillem and Saba families have cemented themselves in American culture and business.
"Our dream was to live in the USA. That was very important for our family," Guillem said. "We are very proud that our first granddaughter was born in Sarasota. The first one after a long generation."
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.