Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I’m Nicole Heroux and a co-owner of Simply Crepes LLC. My formal title and specialty is technically Director of Sales & Business Development. Simply Crepes is a restaurant group with three locations; two in the Rochester area – Pittsford and Canandaigua, and one located in Raleigh, NC. We specialize in serving an experience, by utilizing one of the world’s most basic foods and transforming it in creative ways, taking classic American recipes and serving them up with a twist. We work with as many local partners as possible to serve our guests a meal that is unique to the Rochester community, delicate yet hearty and of course, all made from scratch in our kitchens! With our purposeful rustic yet slightly elegant décor, our guests feel as though they’ve walked into our family’s kitchen.
What are you passionate about? What makes you tick?
I have a lot of passion in general so this is hard to narrow down! I’m currently sitting outside on a GORGEOUS November afternoon under this golden tree, smelling the autumn air and listening to the leaves fall to the ground. I’m so blessed – I just LOVE Rochester. We truly live in the best city! I’d say what brings me the most PASSION in life, is FLAVOR. Food, wine, spices, trends… the way eating and drinking in a certain succession grants one experience then flip it around and you get a completely different flavor profile. So cool! Have you ever had that one bite or sip and shed a tear, just because it was THAT good or reminded you of that one time?! Flavors shape our lives. I always say everything on the menu should have purpose. When I look at our menu, I see life. I see stories; the stories of our food/beverage partners, their families, my family, my childhood or trips around the world. I love food and what the culinary world is doing for our country. Flavor brings people together.
How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
We first opened our business in April 2003… a little mobile crepe cart held at Frontier Field Stadium in Rochester, catering to baseball and soccer enthusiasts. Our biggest challenge at that time was educating the fan base, who upon entering the stadium was expectant on their normal ballpark food: beer, hot dogs and hamburgers. We sold FIVE whole crepes on opening day as folks flocked to familiar territory! After a few weeks of trekking around the stadium, sampling our product, we gained a huge crowd and loyal fan base of our own! That August, we opened our first full service restaurant, located on the Erie Canal in Pittsford. My family is not inherently restaurant people, so you can imagine the multitude of challenges that we faced in the technicalities of operating a new restaurant business! I attribute our continued success to many factors, including our laser sharp focus on branding, our team culture, the rustic friendly ambiance and our supremely versatile, niche product that allows us to ride the wave of ever evolving trends in the marketplace.
What is your biggest regret?
When I look back at my life thus far, I believe that each choice I’ve made has been just that, a choice. Do I regret some of them? Sure. However, I honestly believe that each of those choices has lead me along a path towards my purpose. With that said, after college, I chose to move to NYC without a job. I figured I’d find my way. If all else failed, I’d get a serving job at a restaurant. One week into my journey as a New Yorker, I found myself working as an analyst on Wall Street. A few years later when the market crashed in 2008, amongst the ruffle, I was promoted to a sales position in large corporate treasury services. While most people were getting laid off, I was thriving. My other half at the time was one amongst the masses that found himself without a job. We chose to move back to Rochester so he could go back to school. I left my newly flourishing career for what I thought at the time was love. I found myself lost and unhappy at home and shortly thereafter, single. Fast forward to today, through those cloudy days, I’m happier than I could ever have imagined! I run a multi-unit restaurant business with my crazy family, am Vice Chair of the Rochester Tour de Cure and have an amazing & supportive fiancé. What I’ve learned is sometimes we take strange, unexpected turns in life to arrive at destinations we could never imagine possible. So try not to regret. Sometimes that path is leading you to something better.
What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
This business is hard. It is not as glamorous as it may seem on the outside. The hospitality industry is brutal. Social media is making it even tougher. To own and operate a restaurant, you need to have thick skin, stay TRUE your goals and always be on your A-game, ready to grind. The competition is so high. We’re operating in a $783 BILLION DOLLAR market! There’s over 1 MILLION restaurant locations across the United States! People have so many choices. For Simply Crepes, we may not be “the best” restaurant in town, but we aim to be your favorite. In a nutshell you ALWAYS need to have in place your BEST: hospitality procedures so your guests feel welcome, leadership/motivational skillsets so your team is happy and R&D for the ever evolving food trends so you stay interesting.
What inspires you?
Positive, powerful, confident women. I surround myself with a network of girl friends who juggle their family, work, health and community. Most often times these are the most creative women in the world! It’s energizing to be around them. They inspire me to be the best human I can be.
How do you balance all the different aspects of your life?
With three restaurants to manage, my family, charitable work for the ADA and now planning my wedding, life can get very overwhelming pretty quickly. Lists and workouts! It’s important to have a routine to keep the momentum of my life moving at a steady, manageable pace. As my work day winds down, I create a "Things-To-Do" list for the next day so I can relax in the evening without millions of ideas swarming around my head. I like to wake up in the morning, get my heart rate going and then tackle my day.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
The cool thing about this question, is that I feel like my answer to question #2 is my answer for this too! I love what I do. I love working with food and flavors. I love seeing flavors transform when you mix them in unconventional ways. I love meeting people in the industry, especially those that operate small, family owned businesses. Everyone I meet has a unique story of how and why they started. All of them havingone common theme – a passion for their trade and a passion to build a legacy for their family.
Name some local creatives that you really admire.
I am so obsessed with Stacy Ercan of Stacy K Floral. She is such a rock star, so creative, so beautiful inside and out. She just exudes this genuine aura of awesome.
Tammy Swales. She’s perfection. I love her work, her energy and the emotion she pulls from her clients.
My mom. Karen Heroux. She never gives herself enough credit. She’s so fun and has this beautiful energetic light inside of her. She makes everyone around her feel special and always manages to think outside the box with new, fresh ideas.
enna May from the Jenna May team at Keller Williams. She’s one of the hardest working women I know. Her and her fiancé have created such an innovative, cool take on the real estate business and how they handle their clients. While she probably isn’t your conventional “local creative” I think she’s worth noting as a super cool, successful, badass chick in this city!