Bubbles and Bouquets, with a French Flair
A dinner delivered to your home by Alexandra Morris‘ catering company, accompanied by rosé wines and French champagnes imported by Mailys Vranken; a breakfast or a quiche, those found at Michèle Saint Laurent and Aksana Ivaniuk‘s Chez Les Frenchies next door to the Lycée Français of New York; a bouquet of flowers prepared by the floral artist Agnès de Villarson; or cooking the recipes offered by Mirjam Lavabre: not only is it possible, but ordering from these women entrepreneurs is also insuring the existence of their businesses and supporting the creative and collaborative Francophone women’s leadership in New York.
As for so many other small businesses, the year 2020 had started perfectly for the American subsidiary of Vranken-Pommery group and for Tastings, one of New York’s most famous caterers and owner of two restaurants in East Harlem.
Soon after ringing a promising new year, the young president of Vranken-Pommery America Mailys Vranken started touring the United States to meet her distributors. She made sure that everything would be ready for the next Louis Pommery cuvée (a sparkling wine based on the Champagne methods and produced with an harvest from from Californian vines); she also prepared the bottling of the Provence Rosé wine Chateaux La Gordonne upstate New York and finalized her partnerships with the Armory Show and many hotels across the country. “We were going to inaugurate a month-long tasting of our Cuvée Louise—the top-of-the-line Pommery Champagne—by the glass in the iconic Surf Club – Four Seasons property north of Miami Beach,” Mailys says.
Also, in Miami, Alexandra Morris and her team started the 2020 season working on the final details of a water and fire-themed reception for 500 people at the Design Center Of the Americas. Alexandra founded Tastings almost 20 years ago on the Upper East Side, initially to service a residential and French-speaking clientele, and over the years to cater to large organizations, corporations and foundations.
The two women know each other well. They meet regularly at Chez Les Frenchies when they accompany or pick up their children at the Lycée Français de New York on 75th Street in Manhattan. Dinners with friends and “play dates” succeed to one another throughout the year. Last March 14th, they were supposed to attend together the LFNY’s annual gala, but within a few hours, the prestigious evening was postponed, and the President of the United States announced the closing of the borders for all passengers coming from Europe who do not hold an American passport or permanent resident permit. The first restaurants decided to shut down before a mandatory and confinement in New York and then Miami became necessary.
For both Alexandra and Mailys, as for many small and medium-sized businesses around the world, everything has come to an abrupt end: The Surf Club has temporarily turned off its lights, and the event at the Design Center Of the Americas got cancelled. One after the other, all events are postponed sine die while hotels and restaurants stop ordering wine and champagne. As with most of their fellow entrepreneurs, nothing had prepared them for such a crisis. According to a Goldman Sachs survey, half of all small companies in the United States fear that they will not be able to stay in business for more than three months. Virtually all of them are impacted by COVID-19, and a majority of them do not know how to obtain federal assistance.
As with most of their fellow entrepreneurs, nothing had prepared them for such a crisis.
“So, we decided to talk about all the issues that affect our employees, our companies and our families,” Mailys said by phone. Together, the two business leaders employ about 40 people in the catering, sales and administration sectors. “These are our professional families,” adds Alexandra. From day one, Mailys has made a priority to maintain all jobs in her company despite the temporary loss of the restaurant market, a substantial part of the revenues. For Alexandra, the situation is even worse: all scheduled events are canceled. Together, they look for solutions and attend webinars, such as those held by French Founders, to learn how to better cope with this unprecedented situation; they decipher announcements of federal aid and exchange with other managers; above all, they decide to share one of their most precious resources, their customer databases, by creating cross-communication campaigns and offering services adapted to these unprecedented circumstances.
A social media campaign displays this solidarity between these two women entrepreneurs
Tastings now offers deliver daily individual and family menus for Manhattan and the Hamptons, while featuring a selection of wines and champagnes at the lowest prices, including the Chapelle Gordonne rosés and the Vranken and Pommery line of champagnes handled by Mailys in the United States. A social media campaign displays this solidarity between these two women entrepreneurs, a mutual support they feel is more necessary than ever.
Both CEOs regularly speak with their teams via Zoom. Mailys explains that she systematically begins by asking her colleagues about their well-being. “It’s first and foremost a human ordeal,” she says. At Tastings, the meetings even include an intern from the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne who continues her professional training, but from her home in Italy, “where she went back to live as soon as the crisis began,” adds Alexandra.
With Easter and Passover approaching, Alexandra and her chef have designed special menus, “prepared and delivered with every possible precaution,” insists the founder of Tastings, who also wanted her current business development to include a social impact purpose. This new offering is supporting the community of East Harlem, the neighborhood in which she runs two restaurants, Gaudir and Mountain Bird: 20% of orders are thus donated to City Harvest’s “Skip Lunch, Fight Hunger” program.
This support is developing as a network and shines like a star.
Among Mailys and Alexandra’s colleagues and friend, there is another woman entrepreneur, Mirjam Lavabre, the owner of another New York-based caterer, Cuis’in. Unlike Alexandra, Mirjam has not been able to keep her business open but sends her customers recipes and videos online while offering a game on social networks and displaying her proud partnership with Vranken-Pommery America.
This support is developing as a network and shines like a star. Mailys obviously orders meals at Tastings, but also at Michèle Saint Laurent and Aksana Ivaniuk’s café-épicerie Chez Les Frenchies, which has metamorphosed from one day to the next into a home delivery service for frozen croissants, plain as well as with chocolate, baguettes, fresh quiches and a whole range of grocery products that French expatriate families favor. Florist Agnès de Villarson, whose orders for arrangements for big New York parties have logically stopped, has also leveraged her database of clients and friends to now offer her customers subscription for limited series of bouquets “made with flowers from local producers who also need support,” says Agnès.
All the elements are thus gathered for a celebratory meal, with a French touch, for two or the whole family, an opportunity to forget for a moment that the city, finally asleep, has been stricken by a frightening number of sick people and submerged hospitals.
In these uncertain times, buying from these women entrepreneurs have almost become an activist act, a simple and effective way to support one another, to sustain their businesses, to protect a few local jobs—and along social and economic lives—to celebrate a friendship and solidarity that are more vibrant than ever in New York’s French community and, above all, to prepare us for a better tomorrow.
“It’s time to update the wonderful African motto, ‘Alone, we go faster; together, we go further,'” Mailys suggests. “Today, it would be more: ‘Alone, we’re going nowhere; together, we keep moving forward,” she concludes.
“Together,” absolutely, but everyone staying at home.
HOW TO ORDER (New York City and The Hamptons only):
- Tastings: Click Here – Special Menus Available on Instagram ;
To order contact Franck: +1-212-744-4422 ext. 1 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
- Champagne and Wine by Vranken Pommery America:
Click Here to Access The Offer on Cuis’In Website
To order by email: mailto:email@example.com
- Chez Les Frenchies: + 1-347-462-5346 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Click Here to See Available Products
- Agnès de Villarson Flowers: https://www.agnesdevillarson.com
- To receive Cuis’in Recipes: mailto:email@example.com
- Available help for small businesses in the United States:
Goldman Sachs US Small Business Resource Center