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Two Loyal Paris Baguette Customers Sign to Bring the Brand to Connecticut

Tom Paek and Ji Hoon Kim are leading the brand’s entry into the state with a Paris Baguette location in Stamford.

After nearly two decades of inquiries regarding Paris Baguette* business ownership, Tom Paek learned that the brand had finally begun awarding franchises. Because he had seen the success of Paris Baguette in other markets, Paek says he was excited to bring the brand to his home state of Connecticut.

After reconnecting with a former employee and now-accountant, Ji Hoon Kim, Paek was ready to get started. The pair have signed a single-unit deal for a Paris Baguette location in Stamford, Connecticut, but they agree that second and third locations may be in their futures.

1851 Franchise: Frame your personal story for us. What did you do before franchising, and how did you decide franchising made sense for you?

Paek: When Paris Baguette first opened its U.S. stores over a decade ago, I started asking about opening one. At the time, they didn’t offer franchises. I sort of forgot about it for a while and happened to call them about a year ago, and they said they had started awarding franchises.

I’ve always been interested in franchising. Right now, I’m running a dry cleaning business, and I used to own a bagel shop and nail salon. I’ve been in retail for 25 years, but with mom-and-pop stores, it’s getting really hard to hire people. I need skill, and that’s getting harder to find. I like having good people around me, so it just made sense to look into a franchise business. In franchising, the training is easier, and it’s easier to find employees. If this Paris Baguette works out, I’d like to open a second and third store. Hopefully, Paris Baguette can become a full-time job, and I’ll sell the independent business I own now.

Kim: I knew of Paris Baguette because I was born in Korea, so I grew up eating it. When I came to the U.S., there was nothing like Paris Baguette. No local bakery measured up. I had seen Paris Baguette perform well in Asian communities and figured it would also do well in non-Asian communities. Though the Asian population in Stamford is growing, I know Paris Baguette will fit well with everyone since it carries a type and quality of bakery items other local establishments do not. I had also always wanted to have my own business.

I worked for Tom in college, and we recently found ourselves talking about investment opportunities. His interest in opening a Paris Baguette sparked mine, and I became confident this would be a sound investment to make.

1851: What was your perception of franchising prior to becoming a franchisee, and what do you want people to know about franchising now that you are in it?

Kim: When I came to the U.S., the first thing I saw was all of these Dunkin’ and Starbucks locations, and I was hearing stories about how owning a franchise could provide financial security, but I had never thought about it. Now that I’ve learned more about franchise stores, I think it’s a great opportunity for people to get into the “retail” space, because franchisors provide the guidelines. Even for people who have never run a business, franchising is an easy way to get into the industry.

The thing I want to tell other people about starting the franchise process is that you need to understand the full cost of opening and running the business. There are a lot of moving pieces, and it can be a little overwhelming to think about. Paris Baguette provided the Franchise Disclosure Document, so I feel like I have a good understanding of what will come next. That is a good document to read.

Paek: I have always been a business owner, so when I thought about franchising, I was just hoping the process would be flexible and not so strict. Now, I like the fact that the franchisor is helping with real estate, construction and all of those processes.

1851: What made you pick this brand? What excites you most about this company?

KimI grew up eating Paris Baguette, and when I came to the U.S., I couldn’t find anything like it. I thought it’d be a good product to bring to the market. The cakes are very presentable — far better than what you can get from a grocery store. I’m excited to educate people that there are other products out there. 

I had also heard that Paris Baguette is a good franchisor and very helpful, so that was appealing, as well.

Paek: It’s unique. It’s really hard to find a bakery like Paris Baguette in America. When the first store opened, I was unsure how it would do in the American market, but every time I go into a Paris Baguette, it’s busy. As a business owner, seeing that made me confident the concept would work.

1851: What do you hope to achieve with your business? What are your plans for growth? 

Kim: We want to be successful; we want to grow, if possible. I’m from Connecticut and live in Stamford, and so I have a lot of community connections. I want to spread the word. Hopefully demand will pick up, and we can open multiple locations in the state. I’m excited to bring Paris Baguette to my community and share what I love.

Paek: The first goal is to pay off the financing for the first location, hopefully in three to four years. That will allow us to be ready for the second, and so on. Right now, we both have an income, so Paris Baguette doesn’t have to be our sole source of income. We want to reinvest to open second and third locations later on.

1851: What is the one thing about your story you want us to know?

Kim: I look forward to opening the first store in Connecticut. Ever since moving to the U.S., I’ve always lived in Connecticut, but every time I bought a cake, it wasn’t the type of cake I grew up eating. I always had to drive far for Paris Baguette. 

I knew there was a decent population of people in Connecticut who know Paris Baguette and want to have Paris Baguette. It’s good for everyone to be close to something they’re familiar with and want to buy and enjoy.

Flexibility is also really important. In corporate structures, you can’t always handle your own time, and the flexibility of Paris Baguette gives us that ability.

Paek: To me, it was the cakes Paris Baguette makes that really interested me. I actually have a friend who works at another Korean bakery that’s very similar to Paris Baguette. He has people driving three hours to buy six cakes at a time, just because they can’t get what they want anywhere else. There are a lot of Korean people who live 20–30 minutes away from Stamford that will drive an hour or more to New Jersey for Paris Baguette. I know the market is there.

1851: What advice do you have for other people thinking about becoming a franchise owner?

Kim: Just reach out and build the network. If I hadn’t talked to Tom, I never would have known he was considering Paris Baguette. Just ask the question. Having a good network can help you see who’s out there that could potentially be your partner, especially if you don’t have a business background.

Paek: I think franchisees should have some kind of retail experience before getting into this. I’ve spoken to other people who bought a franchise without any retail experience, and some of them failed. It’s easier than building a business from the ground up, but it’s still a retail business, so having that experience is helpful.

ABOUT PARIS BAGUETTE:

Paris Baguette is a bakery café franchise with more than 4,000 units across the globe. The brand first franchised in the U.S. in 2015 and has since established nearly 150 locations in markets across the country, making it one of the premier franchise opportunities in its category. Paris Baguette’s primary mission, executed every day by its expert staff of bakers, cakers and baristas, is to share moments of joy with customers and help customers share moments of joy with their friends and family by providing world-class cakes, pastries, coffees, breads and other French-inspired bakery café fare. For more information, please visit https://parisbaguette.com/franchising/.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.

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