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Friday, Feb 23, 2024

Chocolate Shop Makes Sweet Deal

When Sandrine Casanova-Paccallet and her husband visited Thousand Oaks last September, the French couple stumbled upon a quaint chocolate shop and tea room called Chocolatine, where they ate pastries and chatted with the owners. Within the month, the couple bought the shop – from founders Sabrina and Hugo Barthe, who had years before also come from France but now were ready for retirement. “They’re basically the new us,” said Sabrina Barthe, 49. “They are a young French couple who wanted a better opportunity for their lives.” The younger couple was visiting from Lyon, France, and they had been in search of business opportunities in the United States, but they weren’t expecting to find something so soon. Casanova-Paccallet, 32, said she and her husband, Ludovic Gaudin, 38, heard about Chocolatine from a friend in the area, and were pleasantly surprised to hear that the owners were selling. “We wanted to invest in a business and feel the freedom to be your own employee,” said Casanova-Paccallet, who visited the states with her husband on an investment visa. Gaudin went to culinary school about 18 years ago, but he had been working in construction for the last several years because the market for owning a bakery in France is stiff. The Barthes have attracted a local clientele over the years with their homemade goods. Customers can enjoy a hot chocolate for $4, a lemon sugar crepe for $5 or even a Croque Monsieur for $8. From the Barthes’ standpoint, this worked out well to hand over their business to a couple who understands the French culture, a key contributor to Chocolatine’s success. “We’ve made so many relationships with our customers over the years,” Hugo Barthe, 65, said. “People who started coming here as kids are now graduating high school, and one woman who came here as a teenager is now married and she just had a baby.” The Barthes declined to comment on how much they invested in the shop or the sale price. Even after the new owners took over on May 1, the Barthes committed to train the apprentices and hand over their recipes. Next month, the Barthes will be off to France to their second home where they will stay for four to six months a year. They also have plans for a bed and breakfast as a side business. “We worked hour-wise in 10 years what most people work in about 15 to 20 years, so we’re ready,” Sabrina Barthe said. “We achieved everything we wanted to achieve.” – Stephanie Forshee

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