For Juan Li, creating a good business was all about finding the right partner.
After coming to Canada from China in 1999 to study hospitality services, marketing and advertisement, she knew she had the right tools, but it wasn’t until she met her future husband Thierry Schmitt — a French pastry chef — in 2001 that it all came together.
Thus, Patisserie La Cigogne was born just two years later.
Opening a store on Bayview Avenue, the couple has enjoyed eight years of success. Then this year on Father’s Day, they opened a second location on the Danforth, on the southeast corner of Monarch Park Avenue.
Though coming to the Danforth is a new thing, she says, the idea has always been there.
“We always wanted to have a Danforth location,” she said. “We’ve been searching for a couple years but never found a proper place … Then we noticed this place, and it’s very nice.”
That sort of determination is a constant in the history of Patisserie La Cigogne. Li explained how she and her husband even worked as late as possible the day they got married in 2004.
“Meeting with the (marriage official) in city hall was supposed to be six o’clock — at five o’clock we closed the door then changed and went,” she said. “It was a very simple wedding, just with two witnesses.”
Then it was back to business.
With Schmitt hailing from Alsace, France, many of the menu items are Alsatian. Li says the most popular dessert is “The Symphony” — a cake with a dark, milk and white chocolate mousse combination with raspberries and a raspberry puree on top.
While she said it’s been hard work opening the new location, she has had some luck.
“In the beginning we were a little bit nervous about the neighbourhood because there is a lot of North African and Ethiopian restaurants and we didn’t know how we were going to do,” she said. “Only after we opened we noticed there’s a French school behind us … Then I noticed there are quite a lot of French people in the neighbourhood.”
And sticking to its French roots, La Cigogne, which means the stork (the symbol for Alsace), has traditionally celebrated Bastille Day every year by offering free treats and $1 croissants. But with the recent expansion and staff already pulling overtime, Li said it’s something they just couldn’t do this year.
“Next year we’ll try our best,” she said. “That is my biggest wish.”
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