Douce France brings Parisian flare to the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood. With fresh baguettes, pain au chocolat and colourful macarons, Christel Saba, who's originally from Normandy, stocks her bakery, cafe and grocery store with a slew of products that are all from France.
She lays out her inventory by region; there are shelves dedicated to places such as Champagne and Brittany, for instance. "What's important to me is to tell the customers about what they're going to buy," says Saba, who has years of experience in retail and education.
"There is a kind of history behind each of the products," she continues, noting how she likes to stock items from companies - such as Biscuits Fossier - that have been around for hundreds of years.
Since opening back in June 2013, Saba has slowly introduced new aspects to her business, including a small street-side patio and a basement kitchen, which cranks out an assortment of baked goods.
Display cases filled with chocolates, sugary treats and an assortment of tarts take up the front portion of the store.
Beyond that, there's a small eating area where you can pick up a light lunch - like a vegetable soup ($4.95 to $5.75), sandwich ($6.75 to $9.25) or quiche ($5.45 to $5.75).
I grab a soup combo ($6.90). Mine comes with a bowl of asparagus cream velouté, a bageutte, a few pieces of blue cheese and a preserved plum stuffed with a sweet almond paste. It's a comforting meal that doesn't break the bank.
For dessert I get a chocolate almond croissant, arguably the best type of croissant. Thankfully, this one doesn't disappoint.
To wash everything down, Saba serves a espresso-based beverages, an assortment of teas and hot chocolate from the famed Angelina Paris.
As French music plays overhead, I wander through the narrow space is jam-packed with goodies and examine the prettily wrapped biscuits and candies as well as high-quality olive oils and French condiments.
When customers come in to pick up macarons and chocolates, she wraps everything just as they would in Paris.
Douce France also features gluten-free and kosher goods so that every one can get a taste of France.
Photos by Jesse Milns.