Meet a Mom: Charlotte Dequeker of Raphael’s | Greenwich Moms

Tonight’s Meet a Mom, Charlotte Dequeker, is part of the incredible family team behind the most delicious, authentic French Bakery in Greenwich, Raphael’s.

Having raised their three boys in Greenwich, Charlotte and her husband, Raphael, opened Raphael’s in December 2020, mid pandemic and haven’t looked back. Now, Charlotte, along with her husband, three sons, and Mom all run the bakery together! And wow is it a pleasure to regularly visit their bakery on Mason Street for the most incredible coffee and desserts. 

Charlotte is a woman of many talents – she shares her background in PR, the challenges and rewards of working with her family, how they came to open Raphaels, and some of her favorite things to do – including ten 100 mile races and more than 40 ultramarathons (30 miles or more). 

Read on to learn all about Charlotte including that she doesn’t believe balance truly exists when you are a mom and a business owner, but how key it is for every mom to MAKE their “me” time to stay sane.

Can you please tell us a bit about yourself personally? Names/ages of kids, etc.?
My name is Charlotte Dequeker.I have been married to Raphael for 27 years now! We have 3 boys, Kelian (25), Bastian (24), and Titouan (22).

Where do you live in Greenwich and what do you love about Greenwich and your neighborhood/ what made you decide to move there/ how long have you been there?
We moved to the US 21 years ago. My parents were already living in Greenwich. We came to visit, Raphael was offered a job out of the blue and we decided “why not?”. We sold our apartment in France and made the overseas move with 3 young children in tow. We lived in Pemberwick for a few years before settling in Glenville in 2007. We love this part of town. A bit quieter than the rest of Greenwich but it suits our personality! The kids had a blast growing up there, being able to bike to their friends house, and being very close to the civic center and the huge field. We spent a lot of time there!

For those of us who aren’t familiar, how would you describe Raphael’s Bakery and what makes it unique?
We are a typical French bakery. We wanted to recreate what it would feel like to walk in a “boulangerie” in a small village in France. We import our flours from France and Canada (the difference is huge in bread making as the flour is not over processed and nothing is added to the grain).

Then you have Raphael who has 30+ years of experience as baker / pastry chef. He grew up helping his dad in the family bakery in Brittany (he is a 3rd generation baker) before starting his career in the same field at 16 years old. His Grandpa was the first to start the business just after World War II.

We are a true French bakery, not an American version of what people think a French bakery is. Our desserts are not overly sweets, we prep and bake from scratch every day.
But I think that what makes us truly unique is that we operate the business as a family affair. Our 3 boys work with us along with my Mom (she makes all the sandwiches). It’s a real family business. It’s fun most of the time and challenging some other time. 🙂

Can you please share about your professional background and career highlights – how did you come to start Raphael’s Bakery with your family?
Raphael and I met in 1993, both working for the famous French chef, Alain Ducasse. I was his PR and Raphael was his pastry chef. I stayed with Ducasse for 8 years and that really taught me discipline, perfection and the desire to always get better. When we moved to the US in 2002, I worked with my Uncle, who is a very talented jewelry designer (James de Givenchy, in NYC). I was helping with clients, bookkeeping… a few years later, I decided the commute to NYC was taking its toll and took a job as an office manager for a family office, until I quit to finally operate Raphael’s full time.

We opened the bakery in December 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. Valbella closed for a few months and Raphael used their back kitchen as a pop-up on the weekends. We always dreamt of opening our place so when the “stars aligned” (financing, location…) we decided to make the leap. Our oldest son was the first to join, helping with the back end, then being the first person in the front, doing it all! Then our youngest son decided to come and finally our middle son, after finishing college. We now have all 3 helping us, both in the front and in the back and we are looking for opportunities to expand, thanks to them!

What is it like working with your family to run the bakery?
It is amazing. How many parents can say that they work with their adults’ sons! We get along 95% of the time! and the other 5%, we have no choice but to talk it out. It’s a gift to have different perspectives on the business via 3 different generations working together! (My mom is at the bakery every day making the sandwiches!). It can be challenging at times. We have to address any issue or problem as soon as they arise because we are together all the time. We are closer than ever before, we bounce ideas from each other all the time and it’s great to have different points of view on how to do things, from different generations!

I’m sure it is a tough choice, but what is your favorite dessert at Raphael’s?
I’ll have to go for the classic coffee eclair! But then I also eat chouquettes every day… and nothing like a hot baguette with really good salted butter (and nutella!).

You have done some incredible collaborations in town with Van Leeuwen, Mike’s Organic, and other small businesses, how does it feel to be a part of the Greenwich Small Business community?
It is so amazing and incredible to be part of such a talented pool of small businesses! The community is super welcoming and everyone works hard to bring high quality products to the residents. Greenwich’s resident are very welcoming.

How do you find a balance with motherhood and your incredible career as a business owner? Any tips for the rest of the Moms out there?
I don’t think balance exists when you are a mom and a business owner (or any working mom for that matter!). I have always been working, even when the boys were small and I used every opportunity Greenwich had to offer to help me! They were at the Boys and Girls Club quite often and on local summer camps! All the moms know that you really don’t have a choice, you have to make it work!

I always use running as an outlet, keeping me sane and in shape. Every mom needs their “me” time. whether it’s physical exercise, getting pampered, doing something artistic… Everyone has to make time for themselves. even if it’s 20 minutes a day. And I don’t buy the idea of “I don’t have time”. Nobody has the time. You make the time.

What do you like to do to relax/have fun?
My idea of fun and relaxing is doing crazy running races! I’ve done ten 100 mile races and more than 40 ultramarathons (30 miles or more). I just love the mental challenge and pushing my body to its limits! My fastest took me 20 hours and my longest 41 hours! I’ve also done a couple of ironmans but i don’t feel too safe biking anymore so i stick to running! It’s amazing what the body can do once you put your mind into it.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Fun fact: Raphael and I met at Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse in Monaco in 1993. The coffee room was right across the pastry room. I was drinking a lot of coffee and Raphael got me with his desserts… the rest is history (we have been married 27 years).

We love to support local businesses. What are your fave places when you are in Greenwich to:

Grab coffee: Joe Studio in Old Greenwich.
Workout: YMCA
Go on a date night: Orienta
Go out for a girls night: I don’t go out much so it will likely be a good homemade dinner with some wine, cheese, bread and desserts.
Go out to dinner as a family: Once again, Orienta for the win! Absolutely great Asian / French fusion!
Get your hair done: Maison D’alexandre. Begonia for the Color, Alexandre for the cut.
Get your nails done: believe it or not, I have never had a manicure done professionally… Maybe I should give it a try!
Have fun as a family: BBQ at Tod’s point. We spent so many summer days there. Bring the charcoal and the burgers, balls for the kids. Can’t beat that!
Going out for a delicious lunch: the Country Table here in Glenville, right down the road from where we live.

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