Owner: Acadie Crepes
213 Arizona Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Yelp: 3 stars
Interview Date: Thursday, September 2, 2010
Thierry Boisson, owner of Acadie Crepes, is originally from the South of France, where he grew up in the crepes business. He opened his first restaurant at 22 years old, eventually opening three restaurants around France before he caught the American Dream and decided to emigrate in 1992. “I came with two crepes makers in my suitcase,” he says. “I was ready to try making crepes in a new place.” Upon arrival, Thierry traveled around the U.S. in an R.V., touring Route 66 and “trying every diner along the way,” he says. “They aren’t all good, but you have to try them!”
Thierry ended up in Santa Monica, where he quickly decided that the Santa Monica Pier was the ultimate place to be. “I stopped here and knew that this is where I want to be,” he says. “I had no money, so I started out with a tent and some coolers and began selling my crepes at the Farmer’s Market on Arizona. I guess the total investment was $2,000 to start my American Dream.”
Over time, Thierry added catering and additional farmer’s market locations to his business, and then he bought a truck so that he could bring his crepes makers to multiple locations. “After five years I finally made enough to open this store,” he says. Acadie Crepes opened in 2000. “It was not the right time – we were going through the tech bust and 9-11, which meant that the French culture was vilified – not a great time to open a typically French café!”
In addition to opening the storefront in 2000, Thierry also purchased a food truck, which he retrofitted to accommodate his crepes makers. Then he hit the studios and thus is one of the original gourmet-style food trucks. “We have our truck on a different lot every day – CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, The Office,” says Thierry. “We go to pretty much all of them.” Today, in addition to his catering truck and Hollywood food truck, Thierry is considering another food truck to focus on the street food crowd.
In addition to 4 crepes makers on the Hollywood truck, 10 on the catering truck, and 2 in the restaurant, Thierry also has a small travel crepes maker for small parties and travel. “One time a guy flew me to New York to make crepes for him,” says Thierry. “I just pack my travel crepes maker and it’s easy.” Earlier this year, Thierry taught Chef Gordon Ramsey the crepes-making technique, he has also demonstrated on the Jay Leno show.
With all of his success, Thierry admits that “the only way I survive is I work every day 12-15 hours,” he says. “I don’t feel the pain because I love what I do, but I also don’t have a choice – I have to work hard to make this work. The market moves, and you have to find your way.”
The best part of owning a restaurant is “the freedom,” says Thierry. “I am my own employer, so I have my destiny in my hands. I see other people who spend 10 years in college, then have to pay student loans and are a slave to a company. I’m like a boy scout – I have a good sense of survival and can find a way to make it work.”
The hardest part of being a restaurant entrepreneur is “the hours for sure,” says Thierry. “You are not rewarded financially for the time you spend. I have to work double as someone who works in an office, and I still don’t make as much money as they do. But I do love what I do, so it’s worth it.” Thierry does find ways to get away from the business. “I escape to Kernville – I’ll take two days off, Monday and Tuesday, and relax in the hotel and eat at nice restaurants.”
Thierry has some pretty strong advice for hopeful restaurant entrepreneurs: “If you want to open a restaurant, you have to be ready to be a slave, but you are your own master as well,” he says. “It is very exciting – you create something and make people happy.”