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Sunday June 26th

New Chapel Hill bakery brings European feel to Franklin Street

UNC sophomore Ainsley Cogburn works at Le Macaron, a new bakery on Franklin Street, on Thursday, March 3, 2022.
Buy Photos UNC sophomore Ainsley Cogburn works at Le Macaron, a new bakery on Franklin Street, on Thursday, March 3, 2022.

Le Macaron, one of the newest businesses on Franklin Street, is an authentic French bakery that sits at the former site of Summit Coffee.  

The bakery — which opened in late February — is part of a franchise that has many other locations across the country. This location, however, is the first to open in North Carolina. 

Owner Omer Faruk Ilica said the bakery is meant to feel like a small European town.

Before deciding on Chapel Hill, Ilica considered opening a location of Le Macaron in Raleigh or Cary, but neither had the classic downtown feel that he was seeking. 

Ilica said Franklin Street, however, met all of his criteria.

“In European countries, they generally have large, long streets where everyone gathers,” Ilica said. “French bakery items fit into Franklin Street very well.”  

Located between Target and several apartment complexes and restaurants, Ilica envisions Le Macaron as a gathering spot for students.

“We try to offer a variety of food products so that students can come and chill out or study,” Ilica said. “We try to change our pastry items. For example, today we have different flavors of world-class croissants, but tomorrow we will have cakes.”  

This community focus also influences how Le Macaron sees its employees.  

Even though the shop could function with fewer employees, Ilica said he decided to hire about 10 workers — as many as he could and still turn a profit. 

“Most of our employees are college students,” Ilica said. “We try to help them and have them make a little bit of money.” 

One of those employees is UNC sophomore and Le Macaron barista Ainsley Cogburn. 

“Everybody I work with is super friendly and kind,” Cogburn said. “We're always trying the different pastries and macarons, and they're teaching me how to make different drinks and pastries.”

Le Macaron serves croissants, cakes, about 20 flavors of gelato and 26 flavors of macarons. Only 12 macaron flavors are out at a time, though. 

“The gelato is not something that every coffee shop or bakery has,” said customer Shubham Tyagi. “It makes a good combination, especially with the espresso that I ordered.”

Although a team of professional pastry chefs prepares all of the macarons and other baked goods at a separate location, Cogburn and the other employees have still learned a great deal about how the chefs make the products.  

“The whole process is very intense,” Cogburn said. “We have to take care of the macrons in a particular way so that they are the freshest for the customers.”

It seems like that process is already paying off. Just two weeks after opening, the Chapel Hill establishment has four and five-star reviews on Google.  

To Ilica, quality baked goods and helping the community are the most important goals, even more so than profit or competition. 

“We are here to contribute to the town, contribute to the students, and have a more developed Franklin Street,” Ilica said. 

@DTHCityState | 

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