Not So Little Anymore, Le Petit Marché Plans Expansion
When owner Marchét Sparks opened her specialty foods eatery five years ago, customers were enamoured with the gourmet breads and cheeses and other delicacies. But then the economy tanked.
KIRKWOOD — Marchet Sparks likes to pay attention to details.
And she listens.
The owner of Le Petit Marché (The Little Market) at the corner of Hosea L. Williams Drive and Howard Street credits those two traits with the growth that has sustained her business since opening in 2008.
Now, Le Petit Marché is in hyper-expansion mode. The neighborhood eatery has outgrown its 1,100-square-foot space and plans to move later this year into a new development across the street where it will be the anchor business.
The move, which Sparks expects to complete by early summer, will add some 800 square feet of additional space, allowing for 30 more additional seats, a full-size kitchen, a covered patio with outdoor seating and dedicated customer parking.
"The business has grown so much over the last three years," she said in interview this week with East Atlanta Patch. "We can't add any more tables in here."
An epicurean with a francophile flair, her original vision when she first opened was of a specialty foods outlet along the lines of a French market.
That formula worked, but then the economy tanked.
Business slowed as customers opted to purchase their breads and cheeses from cheaper retailers such as Publix and Kroger.
"I had to switch gears," she said. "I was on my way to going out of business."
What she opted to do instead is focus on breakfast offerings, something her customers said they wanted.
So she experimented with some offerings, got a select group of her customers to serve as a focus group of taste testers.
It was about a year after opening by then, that she put the new concept in place.
"I put my all into this," the Los Angeles native said. "I didn't want to lose it. To stay alive, I had to make some critical changes to the business model."
Now, five years later, business is booming and the eatery has developed loyal following, prompting the expansion, she said.
Even with the larger space and operations, she said she wants to retain the family-run atmosphere that been the cornerstone of business. Her mother, for example, whips up the soup offerings each day. Her dad also works in the restaurant.
A self-described "ambitious but safe person," Sparks said she won't tinker too much with the business model once the relocation is complete.
It will allow her to do more catering, though, and Sparks said she will provide a delivery service component within a three-mile radius for customers.
Her business' growth has mirrored that of Kirkwood, which has seen an influx of new families with young children who have come into the neighborhood.
It's that sense of community that attracted her to Kirkwood, Sparks said.
"I saw a lot of great potential," she said of her decision to not only open her business here but also live here.
"I wanted to get in on the upswing and grow along with the community's growth. I wanted to be a part of a community."