Q&A with Café Framboise Owner Nicole Mallory

Market Street's French café changed hands during a pandemic. Its new owner talks about the challenges and risk.

By Robin Gibson / Photos by Ruta Smith

Things are unpredictable, and it’s challenging just being able to adjust with the ups and downs of the new normal.

Café Framboisesits tucked away on a quiet side street a block from the hustle and bustle of Lower King. The quaint, French establishment which bills itself as a "a gathering place in the heart of downtown Charleston" charmed its way into my heart recently with its many Gluten Free crepe menu offerings. As a newly minted Celiac sufferer, I was thrilled to choose from a wide selection made from buckwheat that despite what its name implies is not derived from wheat at all.

But don't let that be the only reason you visit. Go because the food is really good, and a generous outdoor patio makes social distancing easy. New owner Nicole Mallory welcomes your business as she bravely took on the risk of ownership in the middle of a global pandemic. With an an interior refresh coming, she powers through a unique set of challenges facing her business acquisition. What has the experience been like? She describes it all here in her own words.

This is a picture of a crepe on a white plate with an egg sunny side up on top.

Did you always want to own a Café?

I’ve wanted to since I was a little girl, about 5. I grew up in my grandma’s kitchen and those were some of my happiest memories. She loved to cook for people in her home. Every time I went to her house she had my favorite meals ready, or had me cook with her. I think feeding people is a great way of giving not only a good dish but a little piece of yourself to others.

You and your husband moved to Charleston. What attracted you here and made you want to call it home?

I came with my husband and family about 10 years ago. We fell in love and chose it because of its southern charm and history.

When did you first approach Florence and Dominique Chantepie, the previous owners of Café Framboise, about taking over their business?

Back in January.

This is a picture of food on a white plate.

Were you at all apprehensive about following through during the beginning of COVID-19?

Yes, I had enormous doubt when the pandemic first arrived on the scene. I went back and forth with the purchase of the café. However, I put my faith in God, prayed over it, and I knew that it would be ok.

What challenges are you facing as a new restaurant owner in this climate?

The biggest one is making people aware who don’t know what it’s like in the industry right now. I and other café and restaurant owners are doing our very best. Things are unpredictable, and it’s challenging just being able to adjust with the ups and downs of the new normal.

Most of our customers are kind and understanding, and we greatly appreciate them as we tackle these daily obstacles while trying to survive the storm. I’ve overcome many of them by perseverance and faith. You just keep going and talking to the man upstairs. At the end of the day, you know in your heart it will be okay.

Describe what you're most looking forward to for the future at Café Framboise.

Being able to serve people without asking them to wear a mask. I’m looking forward to good old-fashioned communication, which is something I think I took for granted before all this. Most of all, I want to look back and tell my children, “look, we made it. Café Framboise is still that sweet little French Café that people love to visit with their friends and families.”

This is a picture of a pastry with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar drizzled on top

Want to go? Café Framboise is open at 159 Market Street for breakfast, brunch and lunch during the hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.