A Miami Beach staple French bakery may be relocating later this year
This story was produced by Ammy Sanchez, a student at Florida International University. She took part in NPR's Next Generation Radio Project, a workshop for new journalists — hosted by our sister stations WUSF and WMFE. This year's stories explore what it means to be a Floridian.
In the middle of the night, workers get to Bettant Bakery to start preparing all of the pastries they’ll be selling throughout the day. Cutting fresh dough and braiding it into challah rolls or folding it into croissants.
By 7 a.m. the front staff opens up the shop and the espresso machines start up as customers come in to get their breakfast.
Miriam Bettant and her husband, Matthieu, are the owners of Bettant Bakery—a French bakery in the heart of South Beach, a bustling neighborhood of Miami Beach full of palm trees and art deco buildings from the 1930s and 40s.
“The colors are always lovely,” Miriam Bettant said, looking out the bakery’s storefront window. “The buildings are pale pastel colors.”
This part of South Florida—two blocks from the beach—attracts a lot of tourists and has something for everyone. On the block where the bakery is located, there is a mix of businesses including a Turkish restaurant, a gay bar and a Miami souvenir shop.
Miriam Bettant is in charge of the administrative work of the bakery. “Customers that we get are from around the world,” she said. “We get a lot of Europeans during the summer, we get locals from around Miami and all year long we get visitors from South America. We [also] have the snowbirds from Canada.”
The Bettants took over a French bakery that had already been there for 30 years but added their own touch. There is a small ramp at the entrance that leads to a black-and-white menu board and glass cases containing food and drinks. The bakery is well-lit and has white walls decorated with black-and-white pictures and phrases in French and English like “In bread we trust.”
Bettant Bakery tailors its offerings to adapt to the South Floridians’ taste, as opposed to the French taste, which was their previous clientele. They have baguettes, of course, but they also have danishes with cheese and guava, empanadas and desserts with dulce de leche (a caramel-type confectionery from Latin America).
The bakery is a South Beach staple, but they found out through a Miami Herald article that they will likely have to move while their landlord, the Wolfsonian-FIU museum, redevelops the space.
“We first were very concerned and worried,” Miriam Bettant said. “We just started looking for another location because we couldn’t just drop the bakery. This is really something that we’ve worked hard for and we didn’t want to lose it.”
They are looking for areas west of Miami Beach that have warehouses since their business heavily relies on deliveries all the way from downtown Miami to the north in the city of Aventura.
“We obviously want to keep a storefront in South Beach because that’s really ground zero for us,” Miriam Bettant said.
Miriam Bettant has always had a strong connection with Miami. She moved to Miami from Suriname as a young girl with her mother, who is half Puerto Rican and half Dutch.
“Miami did not have all of this construction and it was not this busy. It was a lot less hustle and bustle,” she said.
When Miriam Bettant was about eight or nine years old, she and her mom moved to France. She attended an international school, where she met Matthieu Bettant, and completed her primary and secondary studies there.
But no matter how much time passed, she always made her way back to South Florida, even if for short ventures.
In 2008, Miriam Bettant came to Miami to participate in a six-month-long hotel marketing internship.
“Miami has a special spot in my heart, I really love this city,” she said. “There are beautiful things that happened for me and my family here.”
After Matthieu Bettant finished his studies, he was ready to take on his family’s legacy of French bakers. But his parents were not ready to pass on the torch just yet.
So the Bettants had to make a big decision: Where would they go as a family that provided a nice lifestyle and opportunities for their bakery business?
“We had to think a little bit outside of the box,” Miriam Bettant said. “We checked around our city—because we’re from Lyon, France—and we looked at different bakeries, different opportunities, and we just didn’t feel it.”
They also traveled to India and China, but no place seemed to be perfect for the job—until Miami came to mind.
“Miami obviously popped up, especially since we also have family here, because that’s also reassuring if you’re moving around with kids,” Miriam Bettant said. “Having family is always a little bit of a safety net. So we ended up here.”
The Bettants have grown fond of the neighborhood where the bakery is located and want to see it prosper, so they believe the expansion of the Wolfsonian-FIU museum will have a positive impact.
“It’s a beautiful architectural project. It’s a great thing for the city. [It’ll] bring more arts, bring state-of-the-art classrooms. So it’s a very positive thing. However, it kind of impacts us in a challenging way because we now have to move.”
And though the future location remains uncertain, one thing they know for sure is they want to stay in the same neighborhood.
“For us, it’s really our lifestyle. The bakery is not so much just a job or something that we come to and then we go home,” Miriam Bettant said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling to know that they’re going to expand.”