Thursday, April 30, 2009


My search for a "fond de commerce" started just a few blocks away from where we live. The second place I ever looked at continues to be of interest for various reasons that I'll explain later.

The owner's name is Colette. A name more french than that is not possible! She's an interesting character. She used to work in the Marketing Department of a high tech company, but her job was eliminated when she was in her early 50s. "Instead of collecting unemployment" she said "I decided to look for a business to buy and run". And that's exactly what she's been doing ever since.

She picked this location because it has tourists, students, and business people in the neighborhood. She decided to sell low cost sandwiches, salads, paninis, and plats du jour (daily specials) because she saw this as a good niche to fill. Her street sign gives a first clue about what she sells: it has a knife, fork & toque. She posts her daily specials on an outdoor chalkboard. She uses every other free space on her outside storefront area to describe her sandwiches & their "formules" (formula, or lunch meal specials). Finally, she has written in big bold letters on her window "English spoken here. Se habla espagnol." She also speaks German and Russian. Pretty amazing.

Being so close to our apartment, I've walked by there several times. I've gone in several times and we've had several sit down discussions. I've observed how she interacts with customers. She is friendly. She greets them with a smile, and sometimes offers a handshake. I don't want to say that this is not typically french, but I'd say she stands out from the crowd! I think it helps explain how she has grown her business so nicely over the past years.

So why sell? Because her son, who works at a reputable restaurant on the Champs-Elysée, is going to open a gastronomic restaurant. She wants to work with him on the project, as does her husband, a butcher by trade.

Colette's place has its pros and its cons. It has a very small seating area. During the day it seats up to 16 people sur place (dine in area). That's 16 people Paris-style (as in side-by-side, squeeze in to sit down & eat with your neighbor). I'd say it's really 12 people, seated comfortably. The kitchen needs a full upgrade (ie replacement), but its size is adequate . There is a basement, even bigger in surface area than the main floor, but it needs some serious electrical work, given its wires dangling absolutely everywhere. A "little" problem to fix...

Those obviously are some cons. On the positive side, her business is running well, as far as small businesses go. It's well organized & it's ready for taking over. It has potential to develop into something more my style.

I wish the store itself was proportion to its asking price. We shall see. One thing is sure, however, at this point in time: low-priced, comfort food is selling well in today's turbulent economy.


No comments: