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Growth recipe: Simply Crepes is branching out with a crepe mix product line

Rochester Business Journal
November 30, 2012

Anyone who has ever wanted the recipe for Simply Crepes' tasty treats can now get the next best thing.
 
The Pittsford-based operation will launch a pre-packaged product line of its crepe mix on Monday. Cans of the mix will be available exclusively at all Simply Crepes LLC locations and Lisa's Hallmark stores in the Eastview Mall, the Marketplace and the Mall at Greece Ridge, the company said.
 
A can of crepe mix will sell for $8.99 and can make as many as 32 crepes. Pierre Heroux, co-owner of Simply Crepes, said the mix is made and packaged in Simply Crepes' prep kitchen at its Pittsford location. The labels for the cans were designed by Cindy Harris of Harris Studios Inc. in Fishers, Ontario County, and produced by Label World Inc. in Rochester.
 
Heroux said the initial launch will feature 1,000 cans of the crepe mix, which he0 hopes will sell out this holiday season.
 
"Our expectations are that this is going to be a product we sell on a regular basis," he said. "We are a small business, but we think big. We feel we are the premiere crepe-making company in the country, and we hope to one day sell our crepe mix across the U.S. and Canada."
 
The launch of the crepe mix is the second major sign of growth for Simply Crepes in less than two years. In July 2011, the company opened its first out-of-state location in Raleigh, N.C.
 
Heroux said the company had been approached by a development company in Raleigh that was planning a European-style shopping center.
 
"We just fit in with the concept they were going for very well," Heroux said.
 
The Raleigh store gave Simply Crepes a third location to go along with its restaurants at Schoen Place in Pittsford and on South Main Street in Canandaigua. At the three sites, Simply Crepes employs 90 workers. That number increases to more than 100 during the summer, Heroux said.
 
He and his wife, Karen, opened Simply Crepes in 2003. Prior to that, Pierre Heroux spent more than 20 years working in finance and operations for Bausch & Lomb Inc. He left Bausch & Lomb in 2002 and began plotting his next career move.
 
"I always wanted to open and run my own business," Heroux said. "I just didn't know what at that point."
 
It was his wife who found their inspiration one day while watching "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
 
"Oprah had author Po Bronson on, who was talking about his book, "What Should I Do With My Life?" said Karen Heroux. "I started to wonder what Pierre and I should do next with our lives. What were we passionate about?"
 
She realized that some of the most enjoyable times in life were on Sunday mornings as her family sat around the dining room table, eating crepes.
 
Pierre Heroux had some experience with crepes. His family, which is French Canadian, owns a maple syrup business in Quebec. His father taught him how to make crepes when he was a child, Heroux said.
 
Using the family recipe, Heroux and his wife launched Simply Crepes as a concession location at Frontier Field in April 2003. Karen Heroux said the idea came from the time the family spent in Tokyo while Pierre worked for Bausch & Lomb.
 
"All over Europe and Japan, you would see street vendors selling crepes," she recalled. "There was always a line of people on these crowded streets, waiting for them."
 
The Simply Crepes concession was a success. In August 2003, the company opened its 2,000-square-foot location in Pittsford. Karen Heroux says it was not long before the restaurant took off too.
 
"It happened just a few weeks in," she said. "It got so busy I found myself walking around looking for a pen and paper so I could take names down for a waiting list."
 
In 2005, Simply Crepes opened a location in the downtown branch of the Rochester Public Library on South Avenue. It closed that location after its lease expired 2010. In December 2007, Simply Crepes opened its location in Canandaigua, which Pierre Heroux said continues to thrive.
 
He said the company saw a dip in revenue in 2009, which he attributed to the recession. However, Simply Crepes has bounced back with record revenue in each of the past three years, he said. He declined to be specific about financial results.
 
Simply Crepes also has a concession location in Sahlen's Stadium and is present at a half-dozen local festivals each year, including the Corn Hill Arts Festival and the Park Ave Summer Art Fest.
 
Karen Heroux said the company always planned to have three business segments: concessions, restaurants and catering. The success of its fourth segment, selling pre-packaged crepe mix, is yet to be determined.
 
Heather Saffer, owner of Dollop Gourmet Creations in Penfield, said she has been working on launching a product line of frosting for her company. What Simply Crepes is doing with its own product launch should serve as inspiration for similar businesses, she said.
 
"I'm happy for them that they've been able to figure this out and make it happen," she said. "It can be a challenge. But Simply Crepes has the formula of a solid business, a great reputation and a product that people want. It will depend on what their goals are, but I think they're lined up to succeed."
 
And if the demand of its customers is any indication, Simply Crepes may have another winning recipe on its hands.
 
"We've always had people asking us how we make the crepes," Pierre Heroux said. "We didn't want to give away our secret. But we got so many people asking for it that we had to do something. The crepe mix was it."

11/30/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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