The Memorial Day weekend launch of a modern café and French bakery in East Naples is the beginning of a local business concept with plans to open as many as a half-dozen locations by the end of 2023.
The second location is already underway for Carole’s House Café & French Bakery, which opened Sunday in the St. Andrews Square retail center on U.S. 41 East. Co-owners Carole Dahan and Christophe Mars, both North Naples residents, extensively renovated the former corner space of the French Bread Oven at 8793 Tamiami Trail E., Suite 105-1.
Carole’s House, open for breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, creates authentic and fresh-baked French pastries and desserts. The menu includes breads, sandwiches and salads with coffee from locally based Narrative Coffee Roasters. The business also offers a catering service.
“We have a very simple and clean menu. I wanted to create something where people can have a simple salad and sandwich with clean bread,” said Mars, noting that he’s a label freak when it comes to ingredients. “We are very conscious of what we put in the sandwiches. We bake everything in-store every morning.”
Mars had initially planned to open Carole’s House last November but construction was delayed. In the meantime, he rented a commercial kitchen off Old 41 Road in North Naples and started serving the Village Walk of Naples community on weekend mornings. “Unfortunately, I had to stop because it’s very difficult to find staff to do both,” he said.
Nevertheless, Mars and Dahan signed a lease a couple of months ago and plan to begin interior demolition soon for the second helping of Carole’s House in The Strand, a Publix-anchored shopping center on Immokalee Road in North Naples. They hope to open the café by the end of July or the beginning of August in a longtime vacant office space next door to a Chinese takeout restaurant.
The second location is coming sooner than they had planned but Mars said he couldn’t pass up a good opportunity. “I still want to take my time because I want to do things right,” he said. “I want to take time with one and two so that I improve my concept.”
With that being said, Carole’s House is on a roll now. “We already are negotiating a third location closer to downtown Naples,” said Mars, mentioning plans for additional spots possibly in Fort Myers and Tampa. “We hope to have like five or six by the end of 2023.”
Mars’ background is in finance. After the Great Recession’s financial crisis, he relocated from France to the United States to start a new career as a food service entrepreneur. “When I moved to the U.S. in December 2010, I did a conversion to be in this industry,” he said. “It’s an industry that I chose. I really love this industry. I love food and I love people. I feel blessed because I really love what I’m doing.”
Meeting his business partner was a bit serendipitous. “Carole’s not someone I knew before but I grew up with her sister in Marseille. I met Carole because I reconnected with my friend,” he said, noting that a vacation in Southwest Florida connected all the dots. “We realized we had some common goals,” he said.
Carole represents hospitality, he said, so he named the business after her to create a sense of home that connects people and food. “Carole is really the most welcoming person I have known,” Mars said. “I really want people to come to the store and feel invited by us. I just want people to come and enjoy.”