INSIDE DISH: Entrepreneur eschews MBA, opens French cafe

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Inside Dish

Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject for this installment is La Mie Emilie, a French cafe opened on Aug. 7, 2009, in the Carmel Arts & Design District. The mother-daughter team of Emilie Myers and Cathy Egler brought it to fruition in three short months, after a fateful trip to Paris in May 2009 and a bit of serendipity.

Myers, 24, spent her entire childhood around the restaurant business. Egler, 54, owned The Pie Safe pastry kitchen and eatery in Zionville from 1986 to 1995, and her daughter waited tables in the establishment before turning double-digits. Egler closed the restaurant after it had evolved to a point where it was scantly profitable, but she later developed an itch to try again. Meanwhile, Myers had turned into a hard-core Francophile, visiting France several times and studying the language in college.

Egler occasionally would suggest that they open an eatery together, but Myers demurred. "I didn't think she'd take me up on the deal; it was a pipe dream," Egler said.

After Myers began a career in marketing, she soon realized she'd rather be her own boss. While working as a product development coordinator for BDI Marketing in Carmel, she enrolled in an MBA program at the University of Indianapolis with a bent toward international business. On a trip to Europe in May 2009 through the program, she and her mother found themselves in a Parisian cafe.

"I looked out the window and said, 'Let's do it, Mom. Let's open a cafe. You've been bugging me for years,'" she recalled.

They quickly scouted a location in Carmel and began developing the menu, based on casual French cuisine while including pastries and American-style favorites from the Pie Safe's offerings. Several weeks into the project, Myers was laid off from her job, so the die was cast.La Mie Emilie's sales figures

Dick Egler, Cathy's husband and Myers' stepfather, agreed to bankroll much of the $40,000 startup. (His contribution to date is about $48,000, while the women have invested $12,000.) The space included furnishings and kitchen equipment left by the former tenant—Bistro de Paris, also a French restaurant—which helped save on expenses and speed the transition.

Despite Egler's hands-on experience and Myers' marketing smarts, they had several lessons to learn. Although La Mie Emilie was intended to open only for breakfast and lunch, customers clamored for dinner. Wine wasn't originally on the menu, and customers balked. The partners quickly relented on both counts.

Egler's pies helped prop up sales during the holidays and typically lean winter months. As the restaurant developed a customer base and expanded its offerings, sales began to grow again in the spring (see chart). However, for the 12 months ending Oct. 1, 2010, the restaurant had recorded a net loss of about $50,000.

"It's hard to take, and I guess that will drive me to get more customers in the door," Myers said. With little faith in traditional advertising, she hopes to generate positive word of mouth, exploit social media, contribute items to local festivals and charitable events, and explore online promotions such as Groupon.

In the video at top, Myers and her mother discuss the origins of the eatery and the young woman's intense learning curve as she stepped from the classroom to a real-life managerial position. As far as going back to school to complete her MBA, she now wonders if it wouldn't be more appropriate to go back and teach classes.

La Mie Emilie
15 W. Main St., Carmel
(317) 816-1200
Concept: A French cafe and patisserie open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (selected days) with some American fare and pies from Zionville's late The Pie Safe.
Founded: Aug. 7, 2009
Owners: Emilie Myers and Cathy Egler
Start-up costs: $40,000
Gross sales/net income: $290,000 in gross sales; net loss of $50,000 between Oct. 1, 2009 and Oct. 1, 2010.
Employees: 16
Seating: 80
Goals: To operate at break-even point and then continue to grow sales; eventually hire managers so the owners can have more flexible schedules; and grow sales from catering.

  • delicious
    atmosphere is quaint and parisian, food is really good, had the mushroom soup, phenominal! Excellent bouef bourgignon, be sure to have an eclair and latte to finish it up, will go back regularly
  • Yum
    Had lunch there on Tuesday, it was fantastic and great menu. Great pies. You should stop by and order or pick up pies for the holidays!!! I am from out of town and it was a nice change. Good Luck. i will return. ps great prices too
  • Yummy
    This is a great restaurant that doesn't disappoint (except for not being open on Mondays). The pies are fantastic! The chocolate coconut pie is to die for. Portions are generous but not too huge. Outdoor dining is fun in the summer; the restaurant can get noisy (all those hard surfaces) when filled up for lunch or dinner. I like supporting independent busineses, and the restaurant's back story makes me even more determined to support this bistro.
  • Great!
    Thanks for answering the question and clearing all of that up. Good luck.
  • No subsidies!
    Contrary to many rumors, La Mie Emilie does not, nor have we ever received any subsidies from Carmel, the CRC, or anyone else!! Another rumor that we have heard recently, that also is not true is that Carmel owns our building. Our restaurant is owned by a private citizen and we pay a sizeable rent monthly.
  • As usual
    As usual, Carmel Resident cannot spell nor construct a reasonable sentence and his delusional paranoia shines through his post.

    I can guarantee you that I've lived in Carmel longer than Carmel Resident and have supported more Carmel businesses in my lifetime than he may in his.

    Recently I drove by the restaurant at 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday evening and they were not open. Asking about the hours seems like a pretty basic and reasonable question.
  • Education
    The contemporary fiction is that, in the U.S., more education will result in a "better" after school life. It is only true if you get out of school debt-free. Borrowing to purchase an education is a huge mistake that will result in debt slavery for the person making it.
  • Yum!
    I had a delightful lunch there today: spinach quiche, a croissant, and raspberry crepes. Their croque monsieur is also very good and authentic.
  • Sidewalk Dinning
    I have enjoyed the outside dinning this summer. A great place for lunch any time of the year

    Oh and HarveF/Spigelman4Mayor just support your own community and you would know the answers...schessh what a screw ball he is
  • What's up with the video?
    I twice tried to play it. I get the preroll commercial and no video. What gives?
  • Great place for lunch
    I was just there Tuesday night for a "Wine and Canvass" event, and had dinner there as well; really good food; excellent service and the prices are in line with what you get. I noticed that they have a nice selection for a vegitarian; I'm not but I have freinds who are and its nice when there is a resturant that can accommodate my "veggie" friends with more than just 2 choices.
  • Open?
    I often drive by the establishment and it is not open during what one would consider normal business hours for a restaurant. On several of those times we were going to stop for a bite to eat but were not able to. I notice the hours are not specified in the article.

    Question - is this establishment getting any subsidies from Carmel's CRC? I believe that is a fair question.
    • suggestions
      My family really likes the restaurant especially the pies. We like coming for pie anf coffee.

      However, I do believe you need a little more food variety. I think the menu is too limited. I would like a deli meet (ie rosat beef) sandwhich of course that may not be French.

      Also not sure when you are open at night, maybe outside lights to show your open that night?

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