WHY I BOUGHT
Stephanie Ebers and Reggie Thompson met by chance in 2001—a classic right place, right time situation. As Thompson weaved a tale about a convention in St. Augustine, speeches and martial arts, Ebers intervened. “Let’s cut to the chase: I asked him out,” she laughed.
Thompson hesitated, but Ebers persevered. “She is very persistent,” he said.
The couple will celebrate 18 beautiful years together this September. They may even celebrate the anniversary in one of the five Le Macaron French Pastries stores they own together.
Ebers grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, working as a travel agent for many years before falling into real estate. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Thompson worked on a railroad to put himself through college, earning his Executive MBA at Princeton University before moving south to help run the Florida East Coast Railway.
Ebers discovered Le Macaron while taking her daughter Kiernan on one of their annual Disney World trips back in 2015. Kiernan was a fan of a beauty influencer who recommended Le Macaron in one of her makeup tutorials, so the ladies made it a point to stop by the Winter Park location on their drive to the park. They fell in love with the colorful store and its authentic macarons.
“I’m actually not a big sweet eater, but the macarons were perfect,” recalled Ebers. “Not overly sweet or saccharine, just wonderful and flavorful. I also tried the violet gelato, and that was so unique.”
Upon returning home to Jacksonville, they raved about Le Macaron to Thompson. “They said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to take you to this place, you’ll love it. They have the best macarons you’ve ever had in your life.’ I said, ‘Impossible, there’s no such thing as a good gluten-free macaron in America. If it’s gluten-free, it’s taste-free,” joked Thompson.
Thompson was a veritable expert on the matter: His grandparents were world travelers, so he had frequently enjoyed real Parisian macarons growing up.
Luckily, he was willing to be proven wrong. “They took me down there, a two-hour drive away, and bought me dinner, which was nice,” said Thompson. “They took me to this place, which was owned by founder Rosalie’s son, Greg Guillem. I walked in and was just struck by what my family had also seen. It was clean, beautifully furnished; the macarons looked great, as did the gelato, chocolate, everything. I was impressed by Greg and how he greeted me. To me, it’s all about how you feel when you walk into the store.”
Guillem offered Thompson’s inaugural gluten-free macaron on the house. “I chose a Madagascar Vanilla macaron, thinking that if they can’t get the basics right, then there was no hope for the other flavors,” said Thompson. “I bit into it, and quite frankly was blown away.””
As they left the store, Thompson mentioned to Ebers in passing that he wondered if the brand franchised. Back home, Ebers got to work almost immediately. The couple had been eyeing opportunities to embark on a new professional adventure together, and the stars were aligning.
The couple contacted the brand, and the rest was history. They chatted with Rosalie Guillem over Skype before visiting them in Sarasota, Florida, where Le Macaron is based.
“We spent a couple of days with the Guillem family, and on the last day, we were having lunch when they said, ‘We have good news—we have decided to grant you a franchise license,” recalled Thompson.
Ebers and Thompson had been expecting this news, so they weren’t especially surprised at the time. Later, though, they learned that Rosalie initially intended for the business to help immigrant entrepreneurs come to the U.S. “We learned that we were the first Americans they’d awarded a franchise license, so we were very honored,” he said.
“Stephanie and Reggie are franchisees that we appreciate a lot. They perfectly understood the spirit of the franchise,” said Le Macaron founder Rosalie Guillem. “They bring a dynamism and a ‘joie de vivre’ really pleasant for all those who work with them.”
Ebers and Thompson opened their first Le Macaron unit in February 2017 in Ponte Vedra, Florida. They opened a second store in July of the same year in Savannah, Georgia. “We’d just opened in Ponte Vedra, and started working on the Savannah store almost immediately. That’s why you need a good business partner,” said Thompson.
The following year, the couple acquired three stores in Jacksonville, Florida, making them the brand’s largest multi-unit owners. “It’s a lot of work,” admitted Thompson. “But I enjoy the heck out of a challenge. I love working side by side with Stephanie. I couldn’t do it without her.”
“We are a great team,” said Ebers. “He is the money man. He had the background for setting up the business, and I had the vision for what it would look like, from the music that we could play down to the design of the name tags. It all went together perfectly.” Ebers also serves as the main contact for all their marketing and social media needs.
“We tell our employees that it doesn’t matter that you have the best product in the world, which we do,” said Thompson. “We have the finest macarons, best chocolates, gelato, croissants, coffee—but that doesn’t mean anything if the store isn’t immaculate. We have to be interactive, knowledgeable, friendly—but not intrusive. We greet people when they come in the door, and really make it feel like someplace special.”
“Stephanie was very shy when we met, but became a true entrepreneur,” said Guillem. “Reggie is an outstanding motivator and a great macarons salesman with customers. No one can resist him! We are very proud to watch them grow with the franchise.”
Ebers and Thompson are clearly successful in making their stores feel special. This year, one of their Le Macaron locations in Jacksonville was voted Best Dessert in “Jacksonville Magazine’s” Beaches neighborhood category as well as Jacksonville’s “Best Pastries” and “Best Bakery” in Folio Weekly.
“It’s encouraging because our customers went out of their way to vote for us,” said Thompson. “We didn’t campaign. We didn’t even know about this. They could have voted for anybody, and Jacksonville is a huge city. We have a real following and customer base that we want to grow and keep going.”
The franchisees strongly believe in making those meaningful community connections. They choose two to three charities local to each store to generously contribute to, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Ponte Vedra, sponsoring summer camp for Angelwood, a local special needs organization in Jacksonville and the Alzheimer’s Association of Savannah. Thompson has served on the board of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, in fact, and will receive an award for his contributions this year.
In this way, Le Macaron has helped Ebers and Thompson feel closer to their customers, the brand’s founders, and each other. “When we talk to the Guillem family, we have fun with each other, we go to dinner, and we can discuss anything,” said Thompson. “They’re very good at what they do. Stephanie and I were looking for something to do together, and this franchise very much has a family feel.”