Modernising the café’s social role

Aurélien Camps and his mother Marie Delolme launched Mary's Coffee Shop in Saint-Étienne, a franchise that wants to be known for his warm atmosphere and its home-made recipes – just like home.

By Fédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

By Arthur RickerbyLIFE Photo Collection



In France, coffee beans were introduced in the 17th century. At the time, coffee was rare and sought-after. Cafés didn’t develop until the following century, when they got popular for their social dimension more than for the drinks. 

By Dmitri KesselLIFE Photo Collection

Some became cultural symbols, such as Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots in Paris which were hubs for the intellectual sphere. In Saint-Étienne, Mary's Coffee Shop aims to revive this convivial atmosphere by focusing on gourmet recipes and a welcoming atmosphere.

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The early days 

The adventure dates back to 2010. Alexis and his mother were already working as entrepreneurs in different fields. Together, they agreed to leave their companies to embark on a project they had in mind for several years. "We are a family of risk takers. When we like something, we just go for it ». 

Mary’s Coffee ShopFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

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Their idea was simple: to offer gourmet and homemade products in a family setting. But it was very new to the city of Saint-Étienne where there was no coffee shop of this kind.

Mary’s Coffee ShopFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

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Located just by the university, it was a very quick success with students. It then developed into a franchise network, which today counts six establishments and attracts families coming to get lunch or a snack break.

Mary’s Coffee ShopFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

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Just like home  

In spite of its development, the brand keeps an artisanal production. Nothing is frozen or industrial, and products are freshly cooked in the morning. 

Mary’s Coffee ShopFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

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Cheesecake, pancakes, brownies or muffins: although recipes have changed in ten years, the offer is the same in the six cafés. Each has its own laboratory and produces its own pastries. 

The behind the scenes involve a lot of work that customers wouldn’t necessarily imagine. According to Aurélien, "there’s a really cool world backstage".

Mary’s Coffee ShopFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

Going into a chain-style standardisation isn’t an option. The customer experience relies on the quality of the food, but also on the warm atmosphere, from the choice of music to the comfy sofas. 

Mary’s Coffee ShopFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

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A team effort  

The family is very complementary. Marie is in charge of the cake recipes, and also takes care of the design. Aurélien manages the communication and marketing side. His brother Alexis also recently joined the team on the HR side. 

Mary’s Coffee ShopFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

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Each coffee shop has about seven employees, including a manager, a pastry chef and a barista who prepares the drinks. Soon, the team will be recruiting other employees, including a network animator. 

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Human interactions 

"For gourmets like us, it’s always a pleasure to serve pastries all day long". But what Aurélien likes the most is the connection with his customers and employees. Each coffee shop has its regulars. “We know exactly what time they will come by, and what they will order". He really missed these exchanges during the lockdown. 

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As ways of consuming are changing, Aurélien is convinced that customers will prioritise this new type of cafés. For 2021, he’s aiming at doubling up the network by opening up to 4 new establishments in the Rhône-Alpes region, but also by moving further South. Without losing sight of the regulars!

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