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Cafe owner’s plunge pays off

<p>Amid the plethora of Starbucks and Second Cups, there’s one coffee shop that sticks out — not like a sore thumb, but rather, a fabulously French-manicured one.</p>



Name: Milton Nunes

Age: 35

Occupation: Grocer/cafe owner


Amid the plethora of Starbucks and Second Cups, there’s one coffee shop that sticks out — not like a sore thumb, but rather, a fabulously French-manicured one.


Le Gourmand, located just off of Queen West, exudes a cozy, refreshing, French charm that was inspired by trips to Montreal taken by its owner, Torontonian Milton Nunes, 35.


“I harboured the idea for years before taking the plunge three years ago,” says Nunes, who injects his Portuguese flair into the Euro-chic charm of it all.


French for glutton, Le Gourmand aptly caters to those with a zest for food.


In addition to a wide range of coffees and teas, Le Gourmand, in true bistro style, offers a hearty menu of freshly made soups, sandwiches and salads. It also morphs into a grocery of sorts with offerings of cheeses and baked goods at a deli-like counter. Catering is also available.


High ceiling fans pan below a warm yellow space furnished with country-style tables and chairs, black-and-white tiled floors, and an inviting fireplace that lights up during the winter months.


Matching wooden shelves align the walls with an assortment of pastas, pestos, sauces, spices, olives, oils, chocolates, cookbooks and coffee beans, all of which are available for purchase.


The concept has been met with non-stop compliments, especially from a loyal clientele of designer-type professionals who favour the non-cookie-cutterness of it all.


Little do they know, though, that Nunes conceived and orchestrated the space on his own — no designers, no contractors, no consultants. And his only experience in the food business was a two- month stint at Tim Hortons when he was a teenager.


The Internet became the novice’s best friend with respect to sourcing suppliers. A hefty loan from his parents, who put their house on the line, manifested Nunes’ dream into reality.


With little money to spare, used appliances were purchased and Nunes himself rolled up his sleeves and took to the paint rollers.


The total start-up tab: $150,000.


“In the early days, there was just one staff (person) and myself working the counter. We had lineups out the door, and people would wait because they liked what we were offering,” explains Nunes.


“The response was great, but I was working seven days a week, 18 hours a day. I was confused, exhausted. There were times I’d break down and even cry in the back,” admits Nunes. “It was rough,” he says with a drawn-out ‘o.’”


Those rough tides, however, have calmed. Nunes now heads a staff of 15, which allows him to scale back his hours to four a day.


Offers to franchise Le Gourmand have also come a-knocking, but Nunes is cautionary.


“I’ve just broken even, and managed to pay back my parents,” says Nunes, who obviously wants to enjoy the fruits of his labour before taking the next big plunge.


Le Gourmand is located at 152 Spadina Avenue between Queen Street West and Richmond Street West.


Hours are Mondays to Fridays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.



 
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