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Baker to offer a taste of Paris

(ran PW edition of PT)

When Mihran Kalfayan, owner of Hernando Beach Optical, was invited to participate in the Tarpon Festival last spring, he didn't know what to display. Eyeware didn't seem appropriate to the occasion.

So he asked his wife, Sylvie, to prepare some of her French pastries.

For a tarpon festival in Hernando Beach?

That's right. Mrs. Kalfayan, an Armenian who has lived in Paris, Lebanon and Montreal, is an avid baker. Though she is a piano teacher by training, she comes from a family of bakers.

Needless to say, her assortment of cream puffs, chocolate balls with rum, and French strawberry cake went down rather well at the festival.

So well, in fact, that the Kalfayans had an idea: What about starting their own French pastry and bakery shop in Hernando Beach, next door to the optical business at 4004 Shoal Line Blvd.?

The timing seemed right. Mrs. Kalfayan had been been doing some occasional catering for the Hernando Beach Home Owners Association and other groups. A business next to Hernando Beach Optical had moved out. And she wanted to go into business.

"People asked, "Why don't you open a store?' " Kalfayan said. " "How come you are not doing this permanently?' "

The Kalfayans took the suggestion seriously and started planning. They hope to open Sylvie's French Pastry-Bakery sometime before Christmas. The shop will sell a variety of French and Mediterranean pastries, as well as homemade croissants and baguettes. The bakery will cater and possibly have a small outdoor cafe in the back.

The couple have submitted their plans to the county's development review committee and are applying for permits to open.

Mrs. Kalfayan concedes that the environs of bait shops and marinas don't suggest French pastry shops, but she hopes the novelty will attract customers from Spring Hill and Weeki Wachee, as well as Hernando Beach.

"Everything will be fresh daily, not like the big stores," she said. "My idea is small and quality baking."

She should know. Her family owns a Mediterranean bakery in Montreal, where she lived before moving to Hernando Beach last year. Kalfayan, who is also Armenian, met her in Montreal while visiting family. He had vacationed in Hernando Beach for several years before opening his optical business in November. "The weather brought me," he said.

Though she has spent her career teaching piano _ she taught at the Quebec Conservatory in Montreal _ baking has always been Mrs. Kalfayan's part-time passion. When she lived in Paris several years ago, she said, she picked up recipes for croissants and baguettes from French chefs.

When she moved to Hernando Beach, Mrs. Kalfayan, who is fluent in Armenian, Russian and French, decided her English wasn't good enough to teach.

Starting a bakery seemed a logical alternative.

"I'm excited because I want to succeed," she said. "This area doesn't have a French pastry shop."