Le Gamin Est Ici
International travel has been a distant dream for most of us over the past year but now area residents can have a taste of France just around the corner. Robert Arbor, who established Le Gamin Café/Creperie and Les Deux Gamins in Soho three decades ago, has opened his latest outlet in the Sharon Shopping Center.
The café, which has been drawing rave reviews from patrons, perpetuates Arbor’s ethic of serving fine French comfort foods made from seasonal and locally sourced ingredients in keeping with the “farm to table” movement.
Arbor, who has opened 50 or 60 cafés over the years—some of which caught fire and some of which did not—said he was attracted to Sharon because a local restaurant offered a prime location. The Sharon site, a scant mile from the family’s new farm, remained on the market for months.
“We bought the farm with the idea of growing produce for the restaurants and also were thinking about incorporating a commercial kitchen to start setting up delivery to the city,” he said. “The restaurant was for rent for a long time. After four months, I called the number.”
Arbor is operating the Le Gamin Studio Agraire at the location with one of his sons, who recently returned from working in France. “He is helping to set up the restaurant but he also likes race cars, so he spends time at Lime Rock Park,” Arbor said.
They opened the new restaurant in late February and found a ready local market. “Sharon was ready to go out and eat,” he said. “In Connecticut, when we opened, restaurants were already open 50 percent. And we did a lot of take-out.”
An added benefit of the new location: “I have guests of the restaurants from 30 years ago that I see here now. And now people from Sharon are going to the Green Point café in Brooklyn.”
Arbor said it is hard to predict which cafés will prosper and which will fail. “Most of them have been very popular but I had one that worked for about six months and then it just cut out. I still don’t know why.”
He says his business model makes it easy to manage multiple outlets. “It’s easy because they all have about 35 seats. I like the idea of a café because a café is open all day and is a place where you can just have a café or you can have something a little more substantial.”
“When my wife and I came to New York, I didn’t know what I would do here,” he continued. “I came up with the idea to do some food stuff so I went to cooking school because, if you go into the food industry, what is important is food. You’ve really got to learn to manage it, the cost and everything. I already knew a little bit but not enough.”
He enrolled in a culinary institute and the “French chefs in the city took me under their wing.” Then, as he roamed the city, he noticed that there were no cafes. “Espresso, lattes and cappuccino were not common. I couldn’t find a French place where you could sit down and read the newspaper like in France. They were all bistros, which are more food oriented.”
Thus was born the first Le Gamin Café/Creperie, which was soon attracting celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Uma Thurman, Patti Smith and Johnny Depp. The chef soon went on to open a second café, Les Deux Gamins in the West Village which was a location in the 1995 film, The Brothers McMullen.
Arbor’s latest café in Sharon is open six days a week (closed Wednesdays) from 10AM-8PM. 860-397-5382 or at the link below.