Claude and his Croissant

The Story Behind La Creperie

A baker was never what Jean Claude Lucas thought he might grow up to be. “I wanted to be a soccer
player” Claude says with a smile, "but I was not qualified!” The long road to opening Le Creperie,
French restaurant and bakery here in Fort Collins is telling of a man passionate for family, travel, and
French cuisine. Growing up in his father’s bakery in the coastal village of Brittany, France, Claude had always been more interested in windsurfing and sports than macarons or baguettes. When he was 17, Claude’s father, who had opened his bakery after World War 2, drove him to sign up for military service. “I wanted to join the
army for three year” he confessed. 

After waiting in line for a short time, Claude decided he was not interested in the military. “I walked to
the front, I tell the guy, ‘Claude Lucas, he’s not there, he’s out.’” After escaping a military future, and
surprising his father at home, he was instructed to go to sleep and be ready at 1 am the following
morning to work with his father. “Here I am, and I’ve baked since,” Baking came easy. “I never went to school, when I learned I was just repeating what I had seen growing up.” For the next nine years Claude worked with his father in the summers, during the busy tourist season, and traveled to his heart's content for the other six months of the year. While he was home, windsurfing and long days at the bakery filled his time until September – when the next adventure could be had.

Eventually the adventuring baker would find reason to settle down. “Love was involved.” Claude met
and married an American woman named Carol. She was from Buffalo. Once in Key West, he opened
Croissants de France, in 1983. “We had no money,” Claude says of when they first opened. Luckily the
business, and the croissants, were an immediate hit. “My English was not very good,” Claude,
reminiscing on the early days and once telling a customer, “We make everything from crotch!” after her
inquiry of where the dough had been purchased. Carol was quick to explain the difference between
“Scratch” and “Crotch” to her newly arrived husband.

Over nearly 20 years in Key West Jean Claude would build his business, lose a wife and find new love and
begin a family. Fast forward now to 2000, Claude and his second wife, an educator and painter from
France, named Carole. He decided it was time to sell the bakery and leave Key West with their
two children, Matilda and Enzo. Key West had become a party town and Claude desired the time off to
spend with his growing family. “When you have kids, you take care of them. When you take care of
them you are free for them,” Claude explains his dedication as a father. So, he retired.
Five years in Maui working where he saw fit, then four in Costa Rica, selling baked goods wholesale to
resorts, staying near the ocean was very important. When the economy crashed in 2008/09, the Lucas family felt the sting. “We lost seventy percent of everything,” Claude explains. Costa Rica’s tourism
heavy economy suffered through America’s economic crisis as well. “It was a ghost town, especially
where we were,” so Claude and Carole began to explore their options. “We had a friend living in
Loveland who had worked for us in Florida for three years,” he explains.

“She said we should come to Fort Collins, so I booked a visit. “Because of the economic crisis people were closing business after business, I found a place on College and Mountain,” remembers Claude, hard work and know-how went a long way again. “I knew the formula, I did it before,” Claude says. Again, they were quickly successful. “Lucky us,” Claude says. Carole doesn’t care to attribute everything to luck. “Lucky, but also lots of work,” Carole explains, “eighteen hours a day, there is no secret to success.”Now ten years into business in Fort Collins, the restaurant continues to be successful. Matilda has returned after finishing her undergrad in Montreal and Enzo is stepping into the family business himself. Initially after high school Enzo also began pursuing a degree in Montreal but quickly had a change of heart. “I was feeling a lack of inspiration with what I was studying,” Enzo says of the shift, “I knew that coming back and working with my dad, that would be there.” For the past year and a half he’s been working, learning the family business with his father.

Now working as a family business La Creperie is pushing their way through the struggles of
the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the restaurant closed in mid March, followed by the bakery for the
month of April. With everything closed for the month of April the Lucas’ focused on making improvements with the time off. They refinished tables, Carole painted a new mural on the wall and Claude made a new sugar
sculpture of the Eiffel Tower to join Notre Dame behind the bakery counter. Now there is a big yellow
and red sign out front that reads, “Bakery Open,” and with full displays full of pastries, croissants and
baguettes the bakery is already every bit as busy as it has ever been, regardless of the six foot tape
marks on the floor.

Claude is optimistic, “It’s working fine, you don’t make a fortune but you can still pay
your bills,” and nobody really seems to mind the masks, understandable when there’s macaroons, cakes
and the like at the end of the line. 

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