Walking through downtown Salem, you may find the delicious aromas of sweet blueberry tarts and fresh croissants wafting through the streets. Stepping into the authentic French patisserie, Caramel, located on 281 Essex Street, you will discover these sweet treats along with many others: delicate macarons in a variety of colors and flavors, warm cinnamon Pain Aux Raisin, and beautiful Royal Au Chocolate. Once arriving in this patisserie, you are transported into the heart of France and can indulge in all your pastry cravings.
Caramel is owned by brother-sister-duo Sophie and Dimitri Vallier, who opened the French pastry shop back in October of 2015. The Vallier family is originally from France and the owners’ great-grandfather opened a bakery of his own in Saint-Jean-en-Royans in 1931. Upon arriving in the states, Sophie and Dimitri Vallier wanted to continue the family business, and bring the art of French baking to the United States. The siblings combined their talents—Dimitri’s education as a patissier, chocolatier, and confiseur with Sophie’s degree in business management—and soon after their arrival in Salem, Caramel was born.
Caramel is certainly a local favorite, with customers saying the Valliers’ French pastries are the best they’ve ever had, even surpassing the pastries they’ve eaten in Paris. Due to their great success, the Valliers have recently acquired a second location in Somerville, at 235 Elm Street. When asked about the expansion, Sophie Vallier says, “We had a lot of customers who came to Salem, but who lived in Cambridge and Boston. They came in and always asked us to get closer to the city.” Listening to their customers’ requests, the Valliers began looking for another shop location and happened to find the perfect spot in Somerville.
“When we moved to Salem we were new to the United States and didn’t know how we wanted to open a new business,” Vallier explains. It took the pair about a full year to open up their first shop. “But here [in Somerville] it took us about four months because we knew the process better.”
During the beginning of the expansion process, the duo decided that the new Somerville location would not have its own kitchen. Instead, every morning the Valliers bake all the pastries for the two patisseries in their Salem location and bring half the pastries over to the Somerville shop. This method is definitely more of a hassle, but it guarantees that all the baked goods in both shops are up to the Vallier’s strict standards.
When asked about any other potential future expansions, Sophie Vallier explains, “My brother, I think, is done with two places, but I would love to have another one in about three or four years. Maybe in South Boston, but with a full bakery and full kitchen.”
The future is looking bright for the Vallier family and their beloved patisserie. While the Somerville location has only been open for a few months, Caramel has continued to thrive within the North Shore community.
235 Elm Street, Somerville;
281 Essex Street, Salem, 978-594-0244