Dequeker Family Hits a Sweet Spot with Raphael’s Bakery

The Dequeker family is baking up a storm—and we’re savoring every bite

When Charlotte and Raphaël Dequeker, owners of Raphaël’s Bakery, met nearly thirty years ago, a certain (sweet) gesture would forecast their future.

“I have a real sweet tooth,” admits Charlotte, who works behind the counter while her husband is rolling out dough. Charlotte, who is the grand-niece of Givenchy and an ultramarathoner with ten 100-milers under her belt, got to know Raphaël when they were both working in Paris for acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse. She was handling PR for Ducasse, and Raphaël was honing his baking skills under the tutelage of a master. They started talking in the break room, and soon Raphaël was bringing Charlotte special pastries and treats to enjoy with her coffee.

Freshly baked chouquettes for the whole family: Bastian, Kelian, Raphaël, Charlotte, Héléne and Titouan

“This is how we got together. I thought, he smells like sugar, he makes great desserts. He’s hardworking, nice. I think I found the one,” she says with a laugh about her husband, a third-generation pastry chef who grew up helping his father at the family’s bakery in Brittany.

After getting married and moving to the States, Raphaël secured a job as a pastry chef at Valbella, and the couple went on to raise their three sons in Greenwich.

left: Even simple iced coffee is taken to the next level—served in adorable cups and topped with a chouqguette

Raphaël had dreamed of having his own place—carrying on the tradition of his father and grandfather—and the plans came to fruition when they opened the bakery in 2020. Their ribbon-cutting was done with the team wearing masks, and the pandemic timing meant that all their sons were home and wound up helping out. It began as a temporary arrangement, but today Kelian, twenty-five, Bastian, twenty-four and Titouan, twenty-two all work at Raph’s.

In the early days of the bakery, some customers enjoyed their croissants and chouquettes delivered by UberEats due to social distancing, but once they visited and inhaled the aroma of the coffee, pastries, cakes, chocolates and fresh bread inside the bakery, most prefer to shop and savor the experience in person. Charlotte’s mom, Héléne, is also involved in the business, making sandwiches to her own exacting standards that inspire a following.

There’s often a line out the door with customers craving her combinations such a turkey, comte and avocado and saucisson, beurre and cornichons, all served on baguettes right from the oven. Charlotte says smiling, “She takes her time and says ‘If they’re in a rush, they can go to McDonald’s.’” Not only are they willing to wait, but many of the regulars who travel frequently plan ahead and bring Grandma’s sandwiches with them for plane trips.

As you might expect, there are many French customers in the shop—one stops to chat with Charlotte in her native tongue during our interview—and people travel from upstate, Westchester and New Jersey.

left: Raphaël’s mom Jacotte, in front of the family bakery; middle: Charlotte’s first time meeting Raphaël’s family—of course, he baked a cake for the occasion; right: A clip from the local paper of Raphaël and his brother Gerry admiring a cake their dad made

Like their international customer base, the Dequeker’s enjoy traveling themselves. For Charlotte, many trips are geared around major runs. She has completed the Western States 100 through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the prestigious Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, which winds through the Alps following the Mont Blanc hiking path through France, Switzerland and Italy with a total elevation gain of 32,940 feet, ending in Chamonix. How does she find the strength and motivation for such intense running while also helping to run a family-business that can require clocking in at 3 or 4 a.m.?

“It’s my crazy passion. It keeps me sane, mentally healthy and fit. It keeps me from going to the psychiatrist,” she says, laughing. She runs before work, after work, six days a week, often logging miles to raise money for charities. “While I’m running and in pain, I’ll think, there are some people who are fighting for their life right now. Tomorrow I’ll be fine. Never give myself an excuse.”

She approaches the demands of running and running a business with equal mental fortitude.

left: The Dequeker boys: Kelian, Bastian and Titouan

“I get into a mindset—I got this, I’m going to finish no matter what it takes. It’s the life of running a business. Some days everything goes very smooth, and other days it’s challenging,” Charlotte reflects. “Running involves a lot of problem solving, and it’s the same with a business. We are doing this as a family. We are so close together that if we have a problem, we have to address it immediately.”

The next challenge for the family? They’re looking to open a second location. Following Charlotte’s running mantra, they’re sure to find success: “Don’t let your mind limit what you can do. Set your mind to it, engineer the steps and do it.”

RAPHAEL’S BAKERY

146 Mason St.,
raphsbakery.com


Related Articles

How a Greenwich-Based Organization Is Preparing the Next Generation of Business Leaders

Jenniffer Openshaw's Girls With Impact has offered a free “mini” MBA to 16,000 girls and counting

Loaves & Fishes: Flour Water Salt’s New Locale

Flour Water Salt Bread opens shop with Fjord Fish Market

Petite Maison Kids’ Darling Designs

High fashion on Greenwich Avenue isn’t just for the grown-ups anymore