Paula and Samantha Kramer pushed pause before resolving to purchase Baguette Magic, an uncomplicated French bakery that’s served James Islanders for eight years. They had a good thing going already with Paula working as a digital marketer for area restaurants and Samantha working as chef and part owner of popular Jewish-Mexican hybrid pop-up Matzo y Masa. But then they reexamined the bakery’s potential with a fresh perspective inspired by attending FAB, a conference for women in hospitality in 2019.
“Going to FAB and seeing all of these incredible women who are running their restaurants just a little bit differently and doing different things to support the community around them really made an impact on us,” says Paula. “Bakeries are often the center of the community. We’re excited about the potential of the space as a bakery and a space to host community events outside of our regular business hours.”
In the year ahead, the sisters hope to host area chefs for pop-ups, cooking classes, and other private gatherings. They intend to reinvent the space to create a more communal environment, add some cozy seating, and give the interior a fresh new look.
“It’s less about the bakery and more about what we can make the bakery,” says Samantha. “There’s a lot of opportunity in the restaurant side of it. We saw that it was already established, people knew of it, and it’s in a great location. We’re just asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to make this an even better situation for James Island?'”
For Baguette Magic loyalists who may be wringing their hands, fear not. Baked goods and menu staples will remain the bread and butter of the operation with fan favorites like the Recovery Baguette sticking around. And Baguette Magic’s head baker, Derek Randall, will remain on staff to continue turning out fresh goods daily just as he has since 2013.
The menu will, however, be freshened up to reflect greater variety and customization. “The former owner made the menu in one night 10 years ago and hadn’t changed a price or an item on it since,” says Paula. “We’re bringing a fresh take to the menu, reinventing some of the sandwiches, and bringing some new items as well. It’s been the same six croissants and three breads for several years. One of the biggest changes we’re making is offering specialty breads like rosemary garlic pulls, braided brioche, and seasonal croissants.”
Other additions include mini quiches made with leftover croissant dough, giving the tiny pies a flaky, layered crust. They’re brining and roasting their own roast beef and turkey for sandwiches, a process they have to begin a day in advance. One of their most successful additions to the menu has been a French club made with turkey, muenster cheese, roasted tomatoes, and garlic aioli wedged between slices of house-made bacon cheddar bread. “That one’s been a total smash hit,” says Paula.
The sisters are working with Second State to incorporate a full coffee program, an offering which was surprisingly absent from the bakery beforehand. “We have people come in and ask for a shot of espresso, and we have to tell them we don’t have it. They’d only ever done drip coffee before, so we’re really excited to get a really solid coffee program going,” says Paula.
Baguette Magic founder Mathieu Richard first began selling his baked goods at farmers markets in 2009. He opened the James Island brick and mortar a couple of years later and remained a fixture until last year when he decided to move to Kentucky to be closer to family. “He’d already bought land and a backhoe and all the things. He was ready to get out,” says Paula. “When we came in, pretty much everything had green and red dots stuck on it. Everything was marked with what he’d take with him and what he’d leave here for the new tenants.”
Several pieces of equipment remained behind which, in theory, should make the transition easier, but taking over someone else’s space has posed unique challenges for the duo. They have taken some time to familiarize themselves with the unique quirks and temperament of a lived-in kitchen. “Just working in a space that was someone else’s for so long has been one of the biggest hurdles that I don’t think we were really prepared for,” says Paula.
“Going in and finding problems that had bandaids over them has been kind of difficult. We had our budget all laid out and knew what we were going to do, and then it was like, ‘Oh, actually we need to fix this thing and buy this thing.’ But I think we’ve figured a lot of it out now.”
Getting accustomed to production needs has also proven to have its own learning curve, but the sisters are well equipped to tackle the challenges. In only a couple of months, they’ve managed to find a rhythm.
“Each week is getting better,” says Samantha. “We have our food distribution and paper distribution set up instead of having to go in on days off to meet with people. We have a prep routine down whereas in the first two weeks I was going to Restaurant Depot almost every day because we’d run out of something. It’s getting steadier day by day.”
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City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.