MARIETTA — On a busy Saturday in June, new co-presidents of Douceur De France, Melissa Ward and Jonathan St. Hilaire, are working hard in the bustling French bakery and café near Marietta Square.

The pair took over the long-standing restaurant and patisserie at 277 South Marietta Parkway in early June from former longtime owners Luc and Danielle Beaudet. Luc Beaudet opened the bakery in 2000, establishing Douceur De France — which means “sweets of France” — as a staple for Marietta locals, with another location in Roswell.

St. Hilaire said he and Ward had been trying to purchase the café for more than a year, but funding kept falling through.

“This other buyer came in and wanted to purchase it, but just didn’t really have any experience,” he said. “But thought it was going to be a good investment. And the broker at the time, put us all together. So we came aboard as co-presidents for the company and run this location and the Roswell location.”

Ward and St. Hilaire have known each other for more than two decades, having met in the late 90s at the French Culinary Institute in New York City.

“We’ve been friends ever since,” St. Hilaire said.

When St. Hilaire moved to Atlanta in 1999 he worked for several area restaurants such as Canoe, the Four Seasons and 1848 House before opening a bakery in Atlanta called Bake Shop. The bakery was later bought out by Ruby Tuesday’s, at which point St. Hilaire opened another bakery in northwest Michigan before building it out and selling a few years later. Ward said she worked at Windows of the World in New York and other New York kitchens before working with the Sedgwick Restaurant Group in Atlanta, Marriott and then JLL. The partners worked together on Halcyon, an Alpharetta shopping center, before entering the bakery scene again.

Ward, who lives in Kennesaw, said she used to frequent Douceur De France when it was still on Atlanta Street by the Cobb County School District’s central office. With her front-of-house expertise and St. Hilaire’s experience in the kitchen with French pastries, the stars aligned, she said.

“When we found out it was for sale — it’s a perfect fit,” she said.

For those curious to know how much change will be coming to the restaurant, Ward and St. Hilaire said they would keep what works and make improvements where needed. Those improvements include adding more bread options, revamping the patio area and the décor, and possibly opening a wine bar and dinner service later down the road.

“I think there are things that they have done really, really well,” St. Hilaire said of the previous owners. “I think there’s always room for improvement for anything and everything. But ultimately, we want to be buying and using the best ingredients that we possibly can and be doing good to our customers and show them, hopefully, for the next 20 some odd years how good we can do it.”

St. Hilaire said currently Douceur De France is lacking bread options, which is the staple of an authentic French bakery. In time, the co-presidents will launch the bakery’s bread program, bringing in more baguette options — including a bacon baguette — fresh in-house sourdough, whole grains, and flour milled locally in the South. They hope to fill a void in the area where customers can buy local, freshly baked bread to bring home, they said.

“I think that will just only really help the bakery come full circle,” he said.

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(1) comment

Susan Heuke

Sourdough bread!!!

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