After delays, French Meadow Bakery expected to open March 1

After+a+year+of+remodeling%2C+French+Meadow+Bakery+co-owners+anticipate+a+positive+reception.+See+article+on+Page+4+for+more+information.+Photo+courtesy+of+Thomas+Welna.

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After a year of remodeling, French Meadow Bakery co-owners anticipate a positive reception. See article on Page 4 for more information. Photo courtesy of Thomas Welna.

After almost a year-long delay, French Meadow Bakery plans to open its Grand Avenue location by March 1.

“We’ve been getting around 10 calls every day from residents asking when we’re coming to Saint Paul,” co-owner and founder Lynn Gordon said. “We just have to open by March 1. We have to.”

Asad Zaidi ’15 was walking down Grand Avenue when a car stopped him.

“These older ladies asked me if I knew where French Meadow was,” Zaidi said. “I told them that it hadn’t even opened yet.”

Personally, Zaidi has no strong feelings about the restaurant’s delayed opening.

“It would be nice for us to have another restaurant,” he said.

Noah Koch ’14 placed less importance on the bakery’s opening.

“The opening means nothing to me. I’m going to be out of here by then anyways,” he said.

Koch might have been able to dine at the restaurant had French Meadow Bakery opened at its original slated date in June of last year. As of early January, the bakery was set to move in by February—the executive chef and staff for the restaurant had already been chosen and were set to come into the Saint Paul location for training.

Directing the Grand Avenue location’s setup last Friday night, Gordon noticed that the bar had been installed almost a foot and a half too close to the area where staff will run food between the dining room and kitchen.

“This [bar situation] can be a perfect example of how things can go wrong, no matter how hard you try,” Gordon said, acknowledging that the restaurant’s opening will have to be pushed back once again.

“We’re very particular, you know,” Gordon said. “I did most of the design and I’m very hands-on with the design. As an example, the lights over the bar seemed right but they turned out so wrong. So they went!”

After a year of remodeling, French Meadow Bakery co-owners anticipate a positive reception. See article on Page 4 for more information. Photo courtesy of Thomas Welna.
After a year of remodeling, French Meadow Bakery co-owners anticipate a positive reception. Photo courtesy of Thomas Welna.

The lights are now being handmade by a local artist, adding to a whole list of the restaurant’s interior design that will be handcrafted. From the hand-carved wooden bar stools to the hand-painted silver-leafed ceiling, the French Meadow Bakery seeks to showcase high-quality and locally-conscious design.

“A great attention to detail with the physical space has been paid to make dining a full experience,” Gordon said. “It’s little things like that—the lights, the zinc bar—that can cause slight delays.”

According to High Winds Fund Director Tom Welna, the building’s age and nearby parking availability were also big factors in the delays.

“We’ve learned to be very patient and persevere when working with old buildings,” Welna said. “Its not as if we gave the French Meadow Bakery’s building a facelift; we practically rebuilt it.”

When the French Meadow Bakery began renovations, the 1917 building had rusted steel supports and a sinking ceiling.

Parking was also an issue. The lot across from Patagonia had to be expanded to allow space for the additional patrons that Gordon and Welna expect the bakery to attract.

“When you want to redesign a parking lot or are dealing with a building with very outdated design standards,” Welna said, “the review and renovation processes can be quite substantial and time-consuming.”

Despite the delays, Welna is excited for French Meadow Bakery to open its doors.

“The High Wind Funds makes a conscious decision to put in a mix of retail at Grand and Snelling that don’t compete with each other but enhance the experience of the neighborhood and campus community,” he said. “This community cares deeply about diet, food sourcing, local organic options, and are usually willing to pay the money for it.”

“The Grand Ave location is a perfect space and in a fabulous neighborhood,” French Meadow Bakery Co-Owner Steve Shapiro said. “It was good timing, and I certainly hope it will be a great match.”

For Gordon, the new location holds a personal significance as well.

“I used to take ballet classes a couple doors down when I was younger. Opening up a location here feels like coming home,” she said. “I feel like I’ve come full circle.”