Hearty loaves of freshly-made bread— Le Quebecois (flax flour, rye and wheat flour), Hartford (white bread with rye sourdough) and Italian (rye sourdough, malted flour, sesame seeds), among other types— fill the shelves on one wall of A L’ épi de Blé French Bakery, located at 1757 Main St. on the northeast side of Hartford Avenue.
Behind a glass-enclosed display counter a customer sees other baked goods, including such enticing pastries as almond cream chocolate croissants, cinnamon buns, pear almond caramels, Mousseline brioche, ham and cheese croissants, colourful macaroons, lemon curd éclairs, croque-monsieur and even more mouth watering treats.
"Their products are made in-house," says Ed, a regular customer at the 2,180-square-foot establishment.
Ed and his friend Josie are each enjoying a pastry and a European coffee at a wooden table in the small café area the owners, Nathalie and Gilles Gautier, have set up near the front entrance.
Monsieur et Madame Gautier, who both hail from Marseilles, France, opened their business — which once housed a Polish bakery —on August 16, 2011.
"I’m from a family of bakers in France," Nathalie says.
"I met my husband when he was a window installer and had his own company. I told him: ‘If you love me, you’ll follow me.’ And, it’s what he did. So he returned to school and got a diploma as a baker."
The couple first owned a bakery in Avignon — a small city in southeastern France, on the Rhône River.
"But, our goal was to move to Canada," Nathalie says. "After working as a nanny in Toronto 25 years ago, I said ‘I will come back.’"
She adds that moving was a good decision.
"We tried to find a place in St. Boniface at first. But, it didn’t work out because it was expensive — a huge investment," she explains.
Then, they met a real estate agent who showed them their current spot.
"After purchasing it, it was not easy to find the items to make pastry in the French way. I spent many hours in front of my computer looking for ingredients."
She says their suppliers are in Toronto, Montreal and France.
"We’ve had people say, ‘We don’t want you to leave.’ We reply ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be here for a while,’"Nathalie says with a smile.
Martin Zeilig is a community correspondent for the North End. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.