Sofia is an energetic, very attractive, middle-aged women. She speaks with an accent that I later understand is Greek. She is the current owner of a traiteur/restaurant (catering company & restaurant) that she is selling because her husband wants her back, as she explained to Eric. Unfortunately, on my first visit there, she had told me she is selling because of stomach cancer. Yikes. I'm hearing all sorts of personal stories on this search. I can see why her husband is anxious for her to sell.
Her store is located on one of the city's most active, or should I say vocal, markets. It is abuzz with activity six days out of seven. Vendors are assertively trying to out-shout each other with the day's bon marché (deals). People from the neighborhood are buying their daily needs. Tourists can be spotted in the crowd, taking in the scene and trying to stay oriented. It's all hustle-bustle.
Sofia has been in business the past twenty years. She looked me straight in the eye and said, "you know when I arrived here, I could speak not one word of french. Not one word." And yet it appears that she has done very well for herself. Her storefront is small - it has a refrigerated counter that displays what she sells: hummus, olives, feta spreads, tarama, tabouli and other such greek/mediterranean/middle eastern "comfort foods". There are several tables in the room, also, that can seat up to 20 people. I see potential for private dining or private events at night, something she doesn't do at the moment. Her preference is definitely the catering side. The decor is pure greek: typical blue and white everywhere. (Another yikes.)
When I saw the kitchen for the first time, I thought I was going to die. Of excitement that is. The kitchen is bigger than the storefront!! It's big. Really big. AND, it has a cold room in the basement. What a dream. Except, the closer I look, the more I realize that it, too, has lots of "potential" and would need a lot of upgrading. However, letting the creative thoughts flow, I can envision running cooking classes here, and having the dégustation either in the dining room or even in the kitchen. I can also see using all that glorious professional cooking space for some serious production -- it's the most spacious and adequate kitchen I have seen yet (in proportion to the size of the business I'm searching for). Most kitchens in Paris are very small, miniscule even, and I can hardly understand how centuries of cooks have tolerated it! But somehow they have. This is one incredible kitchen, even in its current state.
Sofia wants to show us the wine shop a few doors down - to let us see how the owner has remodeled his space, and to give us an idea or two if we want. She knows everyone there - rounds of kisses to everyone. Even walking the short distance from her place to his, she's talking with everyone. She's like a magnet - everybody wants to talk with Sofia. Her smile is warm and wide, but even more so, it is sincere and amazingly light-hearted.
After the tour, including a visit upstairs to a small two bedroom apartment included in the monthly rent, we sit outside to soak in the atmosphere. The market is still abuzz. The early spring sunshine is a welcome relief and warms us up. She drops a plate off at the table, a sampling of what she makes and she insists we try. Very delicious! She wispered to me, "I'll show you how to do it all, but if you buy this place, you have to promise me you'll keep selling some of these things. My customers would never forgive me otherwise!" With a wink, she disappears. She's not really serious, but I can tell, she's hoping to find the right buyer as well.
This was quite unexpected - to find this spot I mean. It has great potential, great space, and I love the thought of having fresh produce at my fingertips absolutely every day!! It needs a lot of work to turn it into something "mine". Hummm...need to make a few more visits to figure out if it's right. Not sure if I see myself working directly on a market, and the store is located behind a stall of a market vendor...but who knows....will keep an open mind. It has potential.