David Holder on Ladurée’s Great Atlantic Crossing
For New York macaron enthusiasts—which have grown steadily in number since the dainty treat replaced the cupcake (or was it the whoopie pie?) as Manhattan’s dessert célèbre sometime last year—yesterday was a very bright day indeed. Originally supposed to debut August 22, the first New York outpost of Parisian pastry institution Ladurée finally opened its doors yesterday, with a queue of die-hards waiting outside. (If macarons aren’t your thing, Ladurée may still hold some appeal: there are madeleines, jams, and other confections, too.) Early reports suggest they weren’t disappointed—and why would they be? Gone are the days when one had to make a reservation at Daniel just to hold out for the petits-fours plate to find a macaron made right. We caught up with the president of the company, David Holder, by phone yesterday morning just as he was entering his new boutique.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: I’m wondering why you chose this particular moment to open Ladurée in New York.
DAVID HOLDER: Well, it’s a combination of two things—first, the location, because it was not easy for me to be sure of the right location in New York, and we found one on Madison that’s just perfect. And then the second point is that I wanted to work with good people, and I have my family, and I’m living in New York just for the expansion of Ladurée in America. It was the right time.
SYMONDS: How did you find the boutique itself?
HOLDER: Well, I spent a lot of time all over the streets, all over the city. It had to be, for me, on Madison. So it was just a matter, for me, to find the right location, and hopefully I found it! I found this, it was a shoemaker, I thought the shop was perfect for Ladurée, a good size, on 71st and Madison, it was perfect!
SYMONDS: And the shop is officially open as of this morning?
HOLDER: It opened this morning.
SYMONDS: And you’re there now?
HOLDER: Yes, it’s open now.
SYMONDS: How is it looking—is it busy?
HOLDER: It’s perfect, we love it. From the time we opened, people have been queuing up.
SYMONDS: Can you just tell me how you’re anticipating New York business being different from Parisian business? Is there anything you’re planning to do differently?
HOLDER: Do you mean the product or the architecture?
SYMONDS: Well, both, and also the method of selling and things like that.
HOLDER: The idea for me, for Ladurée all over the world, is that the customer has to feel the same way they do when they’re in Paris. So the Ladurée boutique that you’re hopefully going to see one day, you’ll see that it’s exactly the same as the ones we have all over the world. It’s not a copy, because every one is a unique piece—but you have the same atmosphere, anyway, you have in Paris on rue Royale or Bonaparte. And as for the product, it’s the same. The client—that’s what they want to have. It’s the product that they used to have in Paris, so there is only one [new flavor] that we did for America, which is the raisin and cinnamon. All the rest, you have to feel like being in Paris.
SYMONDS: How long were you scouting locations in New York before you found this one?
HOLDER: Oh, a long time.
HOLDER: Oh, yeah, yeah. It has been a very long time that I wished to open in New York, and probably about a year since the time I found the location, to get all the permits and the work and everything, building. It’s a long process.
SYMONDS: This must be a very exciting day for you, then. How do you feel that the brand has changed over the years? Do you aim to have it be the same experience that it was decades ago? How do you handle a changing market?
HOLDER: You know, we create a lot. We create new products every month. It’s a very innovative firm. And we’re going to celebrate the 150th [anniversary] next year. It’s one of the oldest pastry shops in Paris, and in France. But I mean, we are a very innovative company, with a very young team, so we innovate a lot. Every month, we have new products, new packaging.
SYMONDS: There’s been sort of a macaron wave in New York—there were a bunch of articles last year about how they’re the new trendy dessert. So how do you react to this thing that Ladurée has been making for so long becoming “trendy”?
HOLDER: You know, for me, it’s not us being trendy. The point for Ladurée is that we are the company that created the macaron a century ago. So I’m very glad. When I took [over] Ladurée in 1993, the macaron was not known all over the world, it was only in Paris and the rue Royal. And from that time, we’ve set up some new collections and it has become more fashionable all over the world; and traveling all over the world, you’ll find macarons. But we are the original, so we still have to be the best, and we work for that, day by day.
SYMONDS: Absolutely. I’ve been wondering whether some of the imitations around the city are going to suffer.
HOLDER: Yes! I mean if someone wants a macaron, the original one is the one of Ladurée. So I’m glad, I’m glad that it’s expanding all over the world—it’s good for me, because Ladurée started the product and now it has become an institution all over the world, like the millefeuille or the St. Honoré or even the croissant is an institution. And Ladurée and the macaron is, so that’s good.
SYMONDS: Is there anything you can tell me about what’s coming up for Ladurée, or is that all secret?
HOLDER: Well, you know, we just opened this morning, so now we’re going to have the opening, and hopefully within the next few months, we’re going to open a salon de thé. I have to spend time this week just to try to find locations. The next step would be to set up a lab, with the French chefs coming in, and setting up the salon de thé that would be like one you would experience in Paris. And the next step would be the expansion of our American [presence]—but we have time. Again, we have no rush, and first we have to be sure that we do control even the small shop we opened this morning.
LADURÉE IS NOW OPEN AT 864 MADISON AVENUE (AT 71ST STREET). MACARONS RUN $2.70 APIECE.