Café de France, inside Palladio Antiques & Art, will close on Saturday, June 30th. Jeanell and Donnie Morris, the café's owners, have recently decided to revive the French Bakery, their wholesale operation, which has been dormant for a year.
"It took us a while to decide what we ultimately wanted to do with the French Bakery," Jeanell Morris says.
One of the problems the couple faced at the French Bakery was the repair of some of their expensive baking equipment.
"Our big French mixer, which holds more than 200 quarts of dough, had broken, and it seemed impossible to find someone locally who could fix it," Jeanell says. "If you have to fly in a specialist from France every time something breaks, you'll run out of money very quickly."
Because the Morrises' business was almost exclusively wholesale, except for the items they baked for their own café, using an 80-quart mixer that can only hold a 50-pound bag of flour wasn't an option. Quitting was never really an option, either.
"My heart is in this," Jeanell says. "And we have a lot of customers who kept asking if we would ever open a retail bakery. Memphis needs a bakery."
So, even though Café de France is closing, the Morrises have plans to open a retail bakery in East Memphis. The couple hopes to find enough investors to open Café de France Bistro and Bakery in the former Honeysuckle Health Foods space on Mendenhall near Poplar in October.
When the Morrises first took over what's now the French Bakery in 1998, they had no clue what they were getting themselves into. Neither of them had any experience baking or working in a bakery. But fate put the bakery in their hands.
Guy's Bakery was owned by Guy Pacaud, a Frenchman who had moved to Memphis in the 1970s and worked at La Baguette before opening his own bakery and later, La Patisserie, a restaurant in the space that is now occupied by Jarrett's. Jeanell and Donnie were close friends with Pacaud, who died in a car accident in 1998 while delivering bread. In his will, Pacaud wanted Donnie to take over the bakery and buy his wife Libby out.
"This was really hard for my husband because he felt that the bakery killed Guy," Jeanell explains. Nevertheless, the couple dug in. Donnie went on to learn the ropes of bread baking from master baker Didier Rosada at the American Institute for Bakers, and everything seemed to fall in place. "Donnie always felt like Guy's spirit was around to help us make this work," Jeanell says.
The couple focused on the wholesale business until four years ago, when the opportunity for the new venture at Palladio became available. At Café de France, the Morrises served lunch and the occasional dinner when the antique store received shipments from France. The menu was simple: a cheese plate, smoked chicken, tuna, shrimp, and pasta salads, salade Lyonnaise, and an extensive sandwich list that included baked brie, marinated eggplant, and corned beef brisket.
The lunch menu at the new Café de France on Mendenhall will be similar, and they'll also serve breakfast. Plus, customers will be able to pick up freshly baked croissants in the retail space at 7 a.m.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers has opened its first location at the Avenue Carriage Crossing in Collierville, with a second location on Germantown Parkway coming soon. A total of five locations in the Memphis area are planned for the Colorado-based burger chain.
Started in the 1940s as Sam's Tavern in Seattle, Washington, the restaurant then became Sam's Red Robin before finally transforming from a tavern into the first Red Robin restaurant in 1969. Now the company has 350 restaurants throughout the United States as well as Canada.
Red Robin serves every sort of burger: chicken, "Bleu Ribbon," guacamole/bacon, sautéed "'Schroom," "Honky Tonk BBQ Pork," etc. — all accompanied by its signature "bottomless" steak fries.Red Robin, 4641 Merchants Park Circle (854-7645)