With a greeting of “bonjour” for fans lined up in the predawn darkness, La Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe opened Wednesday in Central Texas Marketplace to serve French country entrees, salads and pastries.
Near the opposite end of the marketplace, past Gap, Petco, James Avery and Newk’s Eatery, Naomi Allen was planning her day at Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery, another new arrival to the restaurant-and-retail venue at Interstate 35, State Highway 6 and Bagby Avenue.
“Our business has been fantastic,” Allen said.
She is also a Subway franchisee with 16 locations between Waco and Gatesville and opened a Smallcakes shop at the urging of a friend doing well with a franchise in Temple.
She said she believes La Madeleine will generate traffic that benefits everyone.
“At about 2 p.m. today, when I drove by La Madeleine, the parking lot was absolutely packed,” Allen said later Thursday afternoon.
About that time, the lot was a third full but traffic was circling.
Signs at the La Madeleine site announce a medical office, Ideal MRI, and Kindler’s Jewelers soon would occupy adjacent space.
Arriving at La Madeleine, wearing his uniform, was 18-year-old Hector Rodriguez. He divides his waking hours between the new French cafe and nearby Buffalo Wild Wings, having two youngsters and a fiancee to support.
Rodriguez said his tasks vary at La Madeleine, with assignments ranging from sandwich making and meal preparation to learning the ropes in the bakery.
Turnout since opening day has been steady, he said.
Over the weekend, La Madeleine hosted a series of invitation-only affairs, with guests enjoying samplings. Management said the first 100 people in line when the cafe opened on Wednesday would receive free bread for a year.
Based in Dallas, the La Madeleine chain has almost 90 locations. The franchisee for the Waco restaurant is based in Sugar Land, and Waco businessman Dan McReynolds owns the building.
“I’m very excited,” said Jason Wetzel, who manages the La-Z-Boy furniture store near La Madeleine.
Wetzel said he and his customers finally have relief from construction congestion that dragged on more than two years, first involving the old Twin Peaks building that became Scotty’s Brewhouse and then creation of La Madeleine.
“I walked over there, and the manager showed me around, gave me a tour of the place, was very nice,” Wetzel said Thursday. “This morning, I dropped by for breakfast, a croissant with eggs and ham. Quick and easy, just like I like it. I’m counting on the place generating traffic for the center and for us. We do have a lot of customers asking about it.”
James Walter, who operates a Good Feet store at Central Texas Marketplace, has an almost unfettered view of La Madeleine’s front door.
He likes most of what he has seen and believes the cafe’s presence will spur his walk-in traffic counts, Walter said.
“Honestly, the traffic at La Madeleine has not been as heavy as I would have thought,” he said. “I was thinking customers would be filling up lots all over this part of the center. That has not been the case. They are busy, just not as busy as I was thinking they might be.”
Several store managers and staffers at Central Texas Marketplace said they had never visited a La Madeleine restaurant and were looking forward to sampling the fare.
“I’m glad we’re getting more options,” said Jenna Barraza, who operates Nothing Bundt Cakes at the marketplace, also near La Madeleine.
Allen, who owns Smallcakes, agreed, to a point.
“Competition is getting pretty intense, I have to admit,” Allen said. “I know I’ve eaten twice at the new P.F. Chang’s in Waco, and right in this center I have to compete with Nothing Bundt Cakes, though we also sell ice cream. I do believe we can peacefully co-exist, but it’s not getting easier.”