Give up engineering to open L’Appartement 4F bakery in New York

When software engineer Gautier Coiffard, 34, told his mother he was quitting his job to open a bakery in Brooklyn, New York, he said, “This is the last thing we need … a another French baker. “

This happened before L’Appartement 4F, the bakery he owns with his wife Ashley Coiffard, became an instant hit. The bakery opened its store in May, immediately made a monthly profit, and is now making up to $ 128,000 a month, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.

“We had a queue from the moment we opened, for hours, until the last croissant sold out,” Ashley, 33, told CNBC Make It.

Gautier and Ashley Coiffard opened L’Appartement 4F in May. In June, the bakery raised $ 128,000.

Gautier and Ashley Coiffard

The company takes its name from its humble roots. In early 2020, Gautier, from Grenoble in southeastern France, had a craving for authentic French croissants, so he started making desserts for himself and the couple’s friends.

At the time, Gautier and Ashley were doing traditional 9 to 5 jobs: he earned $ 105,000 a year as a software engineer and she worked in a mortgage company while studying for her nursing degree.

Leaving those jobs earlier this year to start the business wasn’t easy. Currently, Ashley still works as a school nurse and also manages marketing, social media and partnerships for the bakery. Here’s how she and Gautier make their profitable bakery work work:

A place worthy of French pastry

Gautier’s early croissants didn’t exactly taste like a French delight.

“The first croissant she passed me tasted like a Pillsbury Doughboy croissant, nothing special,” says Ashley. “It was thick and dense… definitely not as light and airy as it is now. “

After trial and error, the croissants gradually started to look and taste better. Gautier says they perfected their recipe in February 2020, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit weeks later, the couple decided to wait before selling the croissants.

In June 2020 they publish their first menu on Facebook and Instagram. Friends and subscribers quickly became interested, but the earnings were modest – $ 150 a week, says Ashley.

However, in the following months, news of the cakes spread. The company began to take over his home.

“Gradually, the apartment started to become a bakery,” says Ashley. “We had flour to cover everything we had. We needed a storage unit so we could put our things in a storage unit … because we had to store baked goods, flour, and sugar. ”

Gautier, in the center, and Ashley, on the right, at the opening of the bakery in May. Investors intervened, but the pair still own 100% of the business, Ashley says. They want to focus on building the vision for the bakery and their community.

Creative mudariums

In April 2021, the couple made $ 10,000. Wanting to expand, they signed a 10-year lease for a store in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood in June 2021. A Kickstarter campaign provided them with $ 62,000 in funds to furnish the store. They also took $ 49,000 in bank loans, borrowed $ 72,000 from neighbors, and charged additional fees on their credit cards.

Today, the display case features floor-to-ceiling windows, a chandelier, and antique furniture, as any French patisserie should do.

Gautier attests that the difference between his first croissants and the current ones is practical. French ingredients also help.

In fact, they’re among the company’s biggest expenses – the couple spends about $ 37,000 a month on ingredients and other food-related costs. French butter costs $ 20 plus shipping for a two-pound sheet, compared to $ 15 for American butter.

“The butter and chocolate come from France and are certainly more expensive than if we had bought them here … but I really think they add flavor and shouldn’t be changed,” says Gautier.

Gautier rolled croissants for the bakery’s cereal mini-croissants, which sell for $ 50 a box. Appartement 4F also sells $ 4 to $ 8 large croissants and $ 5.50 to $ 12 breads.

Gautier and Ashley Coiffard

Rents are also increasing: Retail space in Brooklyn averages $ 3,200 per month, according to the rental website Storefront. Between rent and paychecks for their 20 employees, the couple pays $ 43,423 in fixed monthly expenses, plus another $ 3,539 in monthly credit card payments.

“We’ve been very naive about what it takes to open a business,” says Ashley. “At the time we thought we were crazy and delusional, but I think we had to be disappointed to start our own bakery. “

However, L’Appartement 4F is still profitable. In June, the baker’s most profitable month so far, the couple took home $ 43,958, often selling 1,500 to 2,000 baked goods daily. The couple wants to open a second branch, but only when the time comes.

“We want to grow very slowly and organically,” says Ashley. “We want to make sure that everything we do is sustainable and serves the community that built us. “

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