We initially connected with Alyson and Mallory Caillaud-Jones, co-owners of Chartreuse Sisters
, in the spring of 2020. In addition to owning the patisserie, Alyson serves as the head of beverage and Mallory is the head pastry chef. In 2020, they were in the midst of preparing to participate in an International Women’s Day pop-up event
and were optimistic about other opportunities for collaborations and engagement with fellow women entrepreneurs — and then the pandemic hit, followed by the local closures. As another International Women’s Day comes and goes, the Caillaud-Jones sisters share how they’ve adapted and what’s on the horizon.
Rapid Growth: When we previously spoke, it was pre-pandemic and you were about to participate in a local International Women's Day pop-up event. Tell us what new challenges have presented themselves and how have you been able to address them?
Alyson Caillaud-Jones: The COVID-19 shutdown started just a week after that pop-up so we didn’t have another one until June 2021, almost a year and a half later! We were ready with our paperwork to start working in a shared commercial kitchen space so we could expand the business but had to put that on hold and find a way to pivot.
Mallory Caillaud-Jones: We took some time to brainstorm how we could move forward in a safe and responsible way and in July 2020 we started offering goodie boxes with baked goods that would rotate each month and be delivered within the Grand Rapids area. This was a way to not only recipe test, but to stay in touch with our customers and bring them some sweets to brighten up their month!
ACJ: It’s also always been our plan to have a monthly rotating menu in the storefront, so this was a great way to see if people were interested in something like this. We experimented with a lot of different things — from weekly pick-ups to goodie boxes to Farmers Markets. Eventually, we started having a very strong and supportive customer base.
MCJ: Then, in the winter of 2021, we started looking for a space for our future Patisserie Café and we found it at 800 Wealthy St. SE! It’s a historical building that involves a renovation but we knew it was the perfect spot the moment we walked in.
RG: It’s great to hear about the new opportunities you’ve created. What unexpected wins have you had?
ACJ: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to slow down and in doing so, the path from home kitchen to storefront has taken a lot longer, but it also allowed us the time to refocus our goals for the business.
MCJ: We have learned to be patient and to adapt — two things that we know will make us stronger and more successful when we open the storefront.
RG: With this year's International Women's Day theme of Break the Bias, what comes to mind for you?
ACJ: From our experience working in many different fields and now opening our own storefront business, it is important for us to break the bias that womxn must appear strong and unemotional to “get the job done" or to “be professional.”
MCJ: Since we are sisters and very close, we have been able to be vulnerable with each other and check in with each other and that has made us and the business stronger. So, it’s important to us that our future staff know that they can be open with us too and not have to put up a strong front all the time like we have been taught to do.
RG: What is one call-to-action you would give to fellow business owners as they continue navigating the pandemic?
ACJ: Be patient with yourself, your partner and/or team and your customers. We have been blown away by the support and understanding we’ve received the past few years from our community.
MCJ: This is new for all of us and we are all finding the best way to navigate it so it’s important to be willing and open to adapt with new information while also being compassionate toward yourself and others.
RG: What do you hope to see over the next year?
ACJ: We are excited to open our Patisserie Café this year and not only expand our delicious pastry offerings but also introduce our beverage menu which will include nonalcoholic mocktails!
MCJ: We’re excited to expand our Chartreuse Sisters team and to become a regular dessert destination for the adventurous foodies, coffee enthusiasts and the sober and sober-curious mocktail lovers.
Photos courtesy of Chartreuse Sisters
About Leandra Nisbet: Leandra Nisbet, Owner of Stingray Advisory Group LLC and Co-Owner of Brightwork Marine LLC, has over 15 years of experience in leadership, sales & marketing, and graphic design. She helps businesses grow and assists with: strategic planning, marketing concept development/implementation, risk management, and financial organization. She is actively involved in the community, sitting on several Boards and committees, and has been recognized as one of the 40 Under 40 Business Leaders in Grand Rapids.
Contact Leandra Nisbet by email at [email protected]!