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Simply Crepes’ success shows with opening of franchise No. 4

Simply Crepes Bay Road
The new Simply Crepes location at 1229 Bay Road in Penfield is set to open in October. (Photo provided)

Back in 2004, a year after he and his wife had launched Simply Crepes in Schoen Place, Pierre Heroux was already dreaming big.

Inspired by the crepes made by his grandmother back in Quebec and spun into an entire menu of culinary delights by his wife, Karen, Simply Crepes wasn’t just going to be a one-off, canal side dining destination in Pittsford.

Pierre Heroux knew they had found a niche, and he saw no reason why exponential growth in Rochester and beyond wouldn’t be part of the near future.

When interviewed for a profile in SimonBusiness, an in-house publication for the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester, he said they expected to have 50 locations within seven years.

The prediction turned out to be a little off the mark. OK, way off the mark. Simply Crepes is just now putting the finishing touches on eatery No. 4, at 1229 Bay Rd. in Penfield, with christening planned for October.

But the family-owned business has been immensely successful, not just in Pittsford, but also at its Canandaigua location (in operation since 2007) as well as Raleigh, N.C. (launched in 2011). And big expansion may not be all that far off.

Pierre and Karen Heroux, owners of Simply Crepes
Pierre and Karen Heroux, co-founders of Simply Crepes. (Photo provided)

Simply Crepes has perfected the polished casual and progressively traditional dining experience, with 70 to 75 percent of the menu served in, on or with a crepe.

The Webster/Penfield location, in the works since the spring of 2018, is finally coming to fruition. But there’s a twist; Simply Crepes 2.0, if you will.

For one, the location is the largest yet, 3,300 square feet (Pittsford is 1,500 and Canandaigua and Raleigh are around 3,000). The color scheme is still heavy on blue, but it’s a different shade of blue. There’s a country house feel with barn doors and environmentally friendly fireplaces as part of the décor.

This will also be the first franchise location with a full bar.

The original Simply Crepes was designed by Hanlon Architects interior designer Annette Basinger in collaboration with Karen Heroux. Nearly 20 years later, Basinger worked with Nicole Heroux-Williams, the company’s director of marketing and the new steward of the brand, to create the latest look.

“We’ve maintained the color of the brand, the feel of the brand,” Pierre Heroux said.

That brand is paramount to the business.

“We want to maintain that essence of special,” Nicole Heroux-Williams said.

That’s one reason expanding the franchise footprint has been methodical.

“The food is the show,” Pierre Heroux said. “You want to deliver excellent food consistently, along with some solid hospitality.”

To do so, there must be a culture within the company, a desire of every employee — and they’ll be up to 130 when Webster/Penfield opens —to meet the standards of expectations.

“Wegmans is very good because they have a culture,” Pierre Heroux said. “They train their people and invest in their people.

“Someone said to me not long after we opened ‘You’re successful.’ But we weren’t successful then. I look at an individual like Red Fedele, who at that time had been in business 20 some years (with Red Fedele’s Brook House in Greece). When you’re still cranking it out and your customers love what you’re doing for all those years, that is success.”

Less than a year away from the 20th anniversary, there’s no denying Simply Crepes is successful. And while the Webster/Penfield location is the first new franchise in 11 years, it’s really just the start of expansion.

The foundation for growth was put in place in recent years with additions to the management team. Aaron Bolton was hired as corporate executive chef, Gregg Galuska was named director of operations and Ben Empey has the dual role of director of sales and culture.

“We invested in a strong management team,” Nicole Heroux-Williams said.

While Karen Heroux has stepped away from day-to-day duties as CEO, Pierre continues to oversee operations and their daughters head different departments (Nicole in marketing, Michelle Conlon as director of human resources).

“I could not do this is it wasn’t for their massive contributions,” Pierre Heroux said.

The Buffalo and Syracuse markets are being explored as possible sites for new locations. So, too, as the Raleigh and Cary, N.C., market.

“Those are the two states where we know how to do business,” Pierre Heroux said.

They’re again thinking big, too. They hired a Dallas-based consulting firm to determine where else a Simply Crepes customer base might exist.

“We wanted to know who our customers are and where they might exist in large numbers,” Pierre Heroux said. “The consultant identified 465 suburban locations. And that doesn’t include urban centers.”

Thus, when Pierre Heroux talks expansion now, it’s a lot closer to reality. But the Heroux family isn’t going to tackle rapid franchising alone.

“I’m looking for a partner that can take us to that level, where capital and development resources are not an issue,” Pierre Heroux said.

[email protected]/(585) 653-4020

Wilbern convicted of fatal Xerox credit union robbery

Richard Leon Wilbern arriving for a court date in 2017. (File photo)
Richard Leon Wilbern arriving for a court date in 2017. (File photo)

A federal jury on Friday convicted Richard Leon Wilbern for the fatal robbery of the Xerox Federal Credit Union in Webster in 2003.

Wilbern, 59, fatally shot Raymond Batzel during the crime and wounded another customer, Joseph Doud.

The jury started deliberations Thursday and reached a verdict about 10:30 Friday morning. The trial started Oct. 2 before U.S. District Court Judge Charles J. Siragusa.

The mandatory sentence in the case is life in prison, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Gregory, the lead prosecutor.

Wilbern went to the credit union the morning of Aug. 12, 2003, with a large brief case and an umbrella. He was wearing an FBI jacket, sunglasses, a United States Marshals badge and a wig.

He told an employee that he was there to conduct a security check, but soon pulled out two guns and told the employee to get cash.

Wilbern left behind the umbrella, which was subsequently tested and discovered to contain DNA that matched his.

In March 2016, investigators held a news conference to seek new leads in the case. Details of the crime and photographs of Wilbern committing the robbery were released.

On March 27, 2016, a person contacted the FBI naming Wilbern, a former Xerox employee, as the likely robber. The tipster, who worked at Xerox at the same time, said Wilbern had been fired from a job at Xerox before the robbery.

Wilbern worked for Xerox from September 1996 until Feb. 23, 2001, when he was fired. In August 2000 Wilbern filed a federal employment discrimination lawsuit against Xerox. That suit was ultimately dismissed in the company’s favor.

Wilbern stole more than $10,000 in the robbery.

Wilbern called the FBI five times between July 14, 2015, and April 14, 2016, claiming he was the victim of a real estate scam related to the impending foreclosure of property he owned on Hudson Avenue in Rochester.

FBI agents arranged for Wilbern to come to their office on Scottsville Road, supposedly to discuss his complaint. He signed some paperwork and was asked to put the paperwork in an envelope and seal it, which he did by licking the envelope. Agents were able to obtain a DNA sample from the envelope which matched the DNA on the umbrella, which the robber left at the credit union branch, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“In the end, I think the jury saw what was the most important thing, and that was that the DNA evidence in this case that we obtained from Mr. Wilbern conclusively matched the DNA that was left on the umbrella back in 2003. That evidence was the best piece of identification that we had in this case,” Gregory said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

There were witnesses who testified that surveillance camera images from the credit union showed Wilbern committing the robbery, but those pictures were grainy.

“But DNA sees through disguises. The DNA in this case sees through hazy images,” Gregory said.

Wilbern might have been charged with assault for shooting Doud, but the statute of limitations had lapsed for that crime, Gregory said.

Wilbern was previously convicted of a 1980 bank robbery in Irondequoit. He was caught and pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree robbery and served one year in jail, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Wilbern also was arrested in 1998 in Richmond, Va., and subsequently pleaded guilty to possession of a sawed-off shotgun and possession of a concealed weapon. He was sentenced to two years and 30 days in prison.

In January 2004 Wilbern was charged in St. Clairsville, Ohio, with receiving stolen property and

fictitious vehicle registration. He pleaded guilty to fictitious vehicle registration, authorities said.

[email protected] (585) 232-2035

Year-long construction project in Webster comes to an end

automatic-city-control-traffic-signalWork has been completed on a $3 million project to improve congestion and safety at several intersections in Monroe County.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced the completion of a project at the two intersections of Route 404 at Hard Road and Five Mile Line Road in the Town of Webster. The project, which began in August 2017, was designed to ease congestion and enhance pedestrian safety.

The project also included the addition of new sidewalks and pedestrian crossings to three additional intersections along Ridge Road at Holt Road, Black Cherry Boulevard and Webster commons Boulevard. Officials said the series of intersections is critical to the local economy as it connects residents to a number of commercial businesses on the heavily traveled stretch of Ridge Road.

“A reliable transportation network is critical to supporting regional economies, and with this project we are once again demonstrating our commitment to moving the Finger Lakes forward,” Cuomo said.

The project included the installation of a new right-turn lane at Hard Road, bicycle lanes and a westbound sidewalk, as well as new traffic signals with left turn arrows in all directions.

The intersection of Ridge Road and Five Mile Line Road included new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks, bicycle lanes, extended left turn-lanes and new right-turn lanes. Crosswalks also were upgraded with new pedestrian signals that include countdown timers.

“As county executive, I am grateful that these improvements will increase accessibility and safety along a vital corridor on the east side of Monroe County, while assisting our efforts to bring more jobs to our community,” Cheryl Dinolfo said. “I offer my thanks to Gov. Cuomo and the New York State Department of Transportation for their continued investment in our mission to build strong infrastructure and a stronger economy in Monroe County.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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