Local, French artisan bakery continues to rise above pandemic
Owning a bakery is a dream come true for Chef Francois Kiemde. Chef Kiemde is the owner of La Boulangerie Marguerite, and his wife Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde is his business partner. The upscale bakery is located on the corner of Syndicate and Randolph Ave. in St. Paul.
Chef Kiemde is originally from West Africa and came to Minnesota in 2010, while wife Melissa is from Nebraska. “My wife used to live down the street,” Kiemde shared. “She’s been in Minneapolis, St. Paul for 20 years.” She also graduated from St. Thomas College. The husband-and-wife duo work as a team to ensure the business runs smoothly.
Kiemde shared that he received a degree in sociology before he focused on becoming a French pastry chef. “I went to the French Culinary Institute in New York and graduated in 2000.” Kiemde also worked at a restaurant in New York City where he learned invaluable lessons. “Most of the chefs I went to school with are on ‘Iron Chef,’” which is inspiring to him.
When Kiemde arrived in Minnesota, he worked at a local bakery where he was in charge of quality. But he found the job unfulfilling due to the nature of the work. “I like to be involved with production and have my hands on the dough,” said Kiemde. Being a French pastry chef is his true passion.
After Kiemde worked in the position for three years, he chose to depart and received support from his wife and family. He said, “What prompted me to do this is an inspiration from my father-in-law; he asked me, ‘Why don’t you go buy an existing bakery, you have all this knowledge?’” Kiemde listened to the advice and discovered that PJ Murphy’s Bakery was up for sale. The timing was perfect.
In 2017, Kiemde acquired PJ Murphy’s Bakery, an established bakery that will be approaching its 100th year in business. Kiemde plans on hosting a customer appreciation event in the future to celebrate the anniversary of the original PJB.
After three years, in 2020, the Kiemde family changed the business name to La Boulangerie Marguerite (LBM). It is named after their 10-year-old daughter Marguerite.
Operating a business requires hard work, dedication, and capital. In recent months, LBM has undergone major renovations and they’re currently in the second phase of remodeling. They installed new signage, flooring and ovens.
In upcoming months, they’ll be focusing on phase three and four of renovations. Customers can expect to see more exterior upgrades and a new patio hopefully by this summer.
If you plan on visiting the shop, you should know that the LBM Bakery is very popular and the items are in high-demand. Customers line up outside, wearing masks, as they wait patiently to gain entry. Due to COVID-19, only two people are allowed at a time. Social distancing is also enforced.
When customers visit LBM, they will be introduced to an exquisite selection of French artisan products. Customers can expect some of the original recipes created by PJ Murphy’s, and a delicious medley of new items.
Customers can order a variety of French artisan breads, cupcakes, croissants, cronuts, donuts, viennoiseries (French pastries), patisseries and savory breakfast items. Weddings cakes are also available upon request. The most popular item is the classic croissant. “It’s a 30-year-old recipe,” said Kiemde. The process is very intricate, time-consuming, and it’s important to the overall quality of the products.
Although Kiemde enjoys baking a plethora of French products, he shared one favorite item that he loves to create. “I like making sourdough bread—because of the natural yeast we use to help the bread rise,” said Kiemde. “I like to feel it, feel it daily. It’s like having a child.”
Business is thriving, but the COVID pandemic has caused disruption. Fortunately, the bakery has received financial assistance to cover payroll. “We are taking all of the proper measures and [there are] no COVID-related issues associated with this place.” He emphasized that his team of employees are very “COVID-conscious.”
“This was meant to be for us,” said Kiemde, “because everything fell into place for us to acquire the business.” He added, “The neighborhood is phenomenal—they embrace everything we do.”
La Boulangerie Marguerite is located at 1279 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105. The hours of operation are Monday, from 6 am to 12 pm; and Tuesday to Saturday, from 6 am to 3 pm. Ph: 651-699-9292. Website: www.la-marg.com.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.