Josette Leblond, whose French accent is as thick as some of the butter she uses to make pastries at her Normandie Country Bakery, first came to the United States on vacation in the late 1980s.
She met the French-born head chef at the Queen Mary in Long Beach and soon started making her delicious pates and sausages to be served aboard the tourist attraction.
Later, she opened her own bakery in the Mid-Cities area. The small store in front of a large factory sells pates and sausages as well as rich pastries, breads, quiches and sandwiches. Her caf & #233; is a popular spot to get a sandwich or salad for around $5.
Leblond talked with staff reporter Deborah Belgum about the evolution of her business.
"When I came here, my background was as a butcher. My father had a charcuterie in Normandy.
"I bought this building on Jefferson Boulevard in 1989. It had been a beef jerky factory that had been closed for a couple of years. I bought the place and converted it into a pate and sausage factory and later a bakery. We now make our pates at a 32,000-square-foot plant in Rancho Dominguez. Right now we make a ton of pate a day.
"I don't market myself. People come to me. I don't have a salesman. I am the only one selling. Whole Foods Market came to me and asked me to make them breads and croissants, and later I started selling them frozen dough so they could bake them there, to be fresh. Freshness is No. 1.
"Bristol Farms came to me and started buying my pates seven years ago. I sell a lot to airlines.
"We make 30,000 rolls a day for the airlines. The catering companies that make meals for British Airways, Qantas, United Airlines buy my rolls. I am baking 2,000 baguettes a day. Croissants, phew, we make lots of them.
"We do everything by hand and use butter in everything. No margarine at my place.
"I think I love food, which is why I love my business. The customers walk into my store and have a good feeling. I think it is what makes a difference between a big company and a little company. I don't want to get so big. You don't know how much fun I have. Life is short. You have to be happy."
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