Debi Hernandez doesn’t sugar coat it. Running her Crisp Creperie concept in the middle of pandemic measures was, in a word, “rough.”
But when the Cape Coral, Fla. chef/owner thinks about how bad things might have been, she is thankful every day: thankful that in 2019 and pre-pandemic, she was able to relocate her burgeoning food-truck business from Seattle, to the business-friendly state of Florida.
“We were opened (in FL) for a little more than a year when we were closed down for six weeks,” Hernandez says. “It was slow going, and I felt a lot like the ‘little engine that could’ at some points. But, we have an excellent governor and he got us running as soon as possible.”
She adds, “We had recently moved from Seattle, where we ran Crisp Creperie from a Food Truck. If we’d stayed, I imagine we’d be broke and homeless by now. I have no idea how the other food truck businesses in Seattle have been managing.”
Far from dire possibilities, the classically trained French chef has done so well with her brick and mortar location in Florida that she’s expanding her square footage and has refined her brand.
In this week’s Q&A blog interview with Boxerbrand’s Recipe for Success, Hernandez describes the odyssey of Crisp Creperie, from the streets of Seattle to a fashionable Cape Coral sanctuary.
BB: Was there ever a moment of doubt that you’d make it through the pandemic measures?
CC: We have a very strong faith in God and though it was difficult, it was worse in Seattle. If we’d stayed there, I don’t think we would have survived. We felt so lucky we decided to move to Florida when we did. Even though we were closed down fox six weeks, we reopened for business in May, faster than other states, and were able to build back our loyal following.
BB: Did you pivot to curbside pickup and delivery as a means of survival?
CC: We did not. Crepes get soggy the second they hit a takeout box. We promise “crisp crepes” in our name. We did increase our takeout because our customers asked. But we relied the entire time on customers coming into the restaurant. And we were able to space everyone out appropriately, to meet the social distancing regulations.
BB: At what point did business start to right itself?
CC: Around October we noticed business really picking up again. Then on Jan. 1 I burned my mask and stopped requiring my employees wear them. Though a lot of people still opted to wear them, I think everyone who entered the restaurant, especially visitors from other states, wanted to get back to normal. Another big help was that we received very positive reviews from famous food critic Jean Le Bouef!
BB: And you’re expanding! Tell me about your plans.
CC: One thing we did this year was upgrade our brand. We went from Americanized menus to an all-French menu. This was why we decided to invest in Boxerbrand menu covers. Before we did, we were using the cheap ones, but when we decided to enhance our brand, the menu covers were a big part of that. And our customers love them! And we’re doing so well with foot traffic, that we’ve decided to expand into what was a GNC next-door to us. We’re already doing a very upscale chef’s table, with an eight-course tasting menu. When we expand our footprint, we’ll dedicate one side for breakfast and lunch crepes and the other side will be an open concept with the kitchen with French food at night.
BB: How did Crisp Creperie begin? And why did you move to Florida?
CC: I actually took over from 2 young kids in Seattle that had started it in a truck. I took over the truck and worked there for six years. My husband and I decided to move to Florida because we have a boat. The waterfront property in Seattle was too expensive for us, and with the weather in Seattle, been so cold and rainy, there are not that many good days to take the boat out. So, I did a Google search and continued to get Cape Coral as a result. Now we live on a canal that leads to the Gulf Coast, are able to dock our boat, and the creperie is expanding! — Crisp Creperie uses Boxerbrand’s Classic line in its table product. Thank you!