For French bakery, Washington area has the right ingredients

Dallas-based La Madeleine says mais oui to the Washington market.

The French country-themed bakery/cafe will increase the number of stores here from its current eight to a total of around 31 over the next three to four years, including two next year, one in the Kingstowne section of Alexandria and another in Gaithersburg.

Why?

Washington is full of 25- to 45-year-old, well-compensated, highly educated women, which are La Madeleine’s core customers.

In Maryland, possible new locations include Chevy Chase, Gaithersburg, Glendale, Bowie, Laurel, Germantown, Rockville, Olney and Hyattsville. The Virginia locations include Pentagon City, Rosslyn, Fairfax, Chantilly, Manassas, Sterling, Dulles, Vienna, Leesburg and Woodbridge.

“The nice thing about Washington is it is very densely populated,” La Madeleine Chief Development Officer Paul Carolan said. “Our customer is looking for a place that says, ‘Please come sit and stay.’ ”

La Madeleine, owned by Le Duff America, a privately owned company, spends about $1.2 million to build its stores. There are 63 locations across the United States, with 10 opening this year. All of its stores in Washington will be corporate owned, while they plan to franchise some locations in Baltimore.

Carolan’s studies of the Washington market include locating stores that are on the morning routes of customers, whether those customers are driving or even walking, making sure the restaurants are on the right side of the street.

“So boom, you can catch them.”

And La Madeleine is hoping to catch a lot of revenue.

Remember this? It’s the 1971 short bus that District-based Venga bought off Craigslist for $1,000 a couple of years ago. That’s when Venga was trying to get customers to Washington area restaurants, and co-founder Winston Lord thought the gimmick might add to the fun. (The bus was occasionally sitting in the driveway of Lord’s residence in stately Foxhall.) About a year ago, Venga became a data company that helps restaurants monitor their customers’ habits. So Lord has posted on Facebook that anyone can have the bus — in return for something creative.

The Buzz hears:

District-based Financial Foods has taken over management of Bean & Bite, a fast-casual breakfast and lunch spot at 1152 15th St. NW. And now the restaurant has partnered with Small Comforts Bakeshop, a Maryland-based bakery owned by public relations veteran-turned-food entrepreneur Karen Sippel. Sippel is delivering pastries and other goodies daily to the shop.

Potomac Law Group has added two partners and a dozen new clients so far this year, according to founder Ben Lieber. Potomac Law, a virtual firm that serves as a source of temporary legal help for companies and other firms, now has a stable of 45 attorneys. Kate Polozie , a former partner at McDermott, Will & Emery in the District, joined two-year-old Potomac Law’s corporate practice in March and will focus on mergers and acquisitions, private equity and joint ventures. Gaithersburg City Council member Ryan Spiegel joined the litigation group in April following nine years as a commercial litigation attorney at Winston & Strawn.

Carlyle watch

It was August 2006 when BusinessWeek labeled the $15 billion leveraged buyout of auto rental giant Hertz a “buy it, strip, then flip it” deal that mirrored the private equity heyday of the mid-2000s. The Carlyle Group and two partners purchased the rental giant from Ford Motor Co., where it had languished as a corporate orphan and dumping ground for Ford vehicles. Seven years later, the flip is finally concluded: Carlyle last week sold the last 20.3 million of its shares. District-based Carlyle made about 2.5 times its investment in seven years. The key part of the strategy was spreading the Hertz brand beyond just airport parking lots, moving it into 1,000 new locations. “We took an iconic brand and made it even stronger,” said Greg Ledford, who led the deal for Carlyle.

Factoid of the week

$211B That’s the combined revenue of the 10 Fairfax County companies among Fortune magazine’s list of the 500 biggest public companies in the United States. The $211 billion is equal to the gross domestic product of the Republic of Ireland, according to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. The biggies include General Dynamics, Freddie Mac, Northrop Grumman and Capital One.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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