INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — French baker Xavier de Marchi reunited here with his wife and son Monday after months of legal battles with federal immigration authorities.
"Viva Success!" de Marchi says on his Web site, announcing the reopening of the bakery, Cafe de Paris, which is again serving specialty breads, pastries, espresso and cakes to a loyal clientele.
"The first day I reopened, I gave everyone a free mini tart in thanks for their support," de Marchi said Tuesday.
De Marchi returned to the United States on March 20 but had to wait more than a week for his wife, Valerie, and 17-year-old son, Luigi, to rejoin him. "I was alone and it was so busy, it was difficult to take care of business," he said.
Many of his customers were among the more than 4,000 people who signed petitions calling for the de Marchi family to be allowed to stay.
The family's problems began last November when, during a return visit to France, U.S. officials there refused to renew their two-year business visas.
Instead, the family was given three months to dispose of his business and personal affairs and leave the States.
At issue was whether their bakery, located at 2300 Gulf Blvd., was making enough money.
State Department rules say permanent foreign business owners must make a "significant economic impact" to qualify for extended resident visas. Apparently, the $150,000 in revenue the de Marchis generated in 2009 was not enough.
De Marchi purchased the bakery seven years ago after vacationing in the Tampa area. The family got a five-year investment visa that was extended for two years.
He hired a lawyer but got nowhere. Then he hired a new lawyer, William Flynn of Tampa, and his family's situation began to change.
De Marchi closed the bakery for about three weeks this month while he and his family returned to France, as required by the U.S. Department of State, so they could again apply for new visas. The visas were granted after a meeting with an Embassy official on March 11.
"I think I will keep Mr. Flynn as my lawyer so this does not happen again in two years," de Marchi said.