Serving Sunny Coffee
By Lorna Oppedisano | Photography by Steven J. Pallone
Coffee means a lot to Shem and Taylor Doupé, the husband-and-wife team behind Soleil Café.
They met when Taylor was working at Café Kubal’s Eastwood location. Shem worked nearby and began frequenting the small café after he met Taylor there.
The two started dating. On one of their first few dates, Taylor nonchalantly mentioned that she and her sisters dreamed of one day opening a cafe of their own. Coincidentally, Shem had thought about being a small business owner around that same time.
About 10 months later, after the couple was engaged, the conversation came up again. Shem and Taylor didn’t want children yet, so they thought they might as well try it, and see what happens.
“We were actually saving for a wedding. We were like, ‘Weddings are cool, but we could spend some of this money and hopefully make it back before the wedding or right after,’” Shem remembered with a laugh.
In mid-January 2016, they decided to go for it. Four months later, on May 2, 2016, Soleil Café opened.
In the almost two years since that day, the duo has felt the typical amount of stress new business owners take on when delving into a first endeavor, but they’ve never let that stress consume them or their relationship.
“We just put our heads down and kept moving forward,” Shem said.
When they began to plan the café, it became clear that Shem would do the initial buildout of the space and manage the numbers, but the day-to-day café management and interaction with clientele would be almost entirely Taylor’s responsibility. After they talked about those potentially grim truths, Taylor took a few days and asked a couple friends and business colleagues for feedback.
“Yes. Definitely!” they encouraged her. “Go for that. Why wouldn’t you?”
When she first started working at Café Kubal, Taylor never thought she’d manage a shop, let alone run her own. She wanted to make sure it was something she could walk away from at the end of the day.
It all comes down to choice, she explained. She makes sure to find other, non-work-related things that mean a lot to her, and devotes time and energy to them.
“There are so many other things that are important to me,” Taylor said. “I think to have a successful business, it comes from you yourself being internally OK and successful inside with your own personal life.”
Shem and Taylor agreed they were all in, created a business plan and looked for a space. They searched for a community feel in an area not already saturated with coffee shops. The space at 511 E. Genesee St. in the Fayetteville Square plaza was a perfect fit. As winter turned to spring, Shem worked to turn the space into the small, cozy Soleil Café.
“When you come in here, it doesn’t feel like you’re in a plaza,” Taylor said, gesturing to the café around her.
“That was our goal,” Shem explained. “Keep it bright. Keep it clean. Keep it open. Make it feel different.”
On their opening day, most people they knew — or had ever known, they recalled with a smile — stopped by to support them.
Soleil Café sources coffee and espresso from Peaks Coffee Company, a small husband-and-wife-owned micro-roaster located in Cazenovia. After Taylor met Peaks co-owner Samuel Bender when they both worked at Café Kubal, and was inspired by his passion for roasting, it was a no-brainer to partner with the fellow small business.
Since opening, Soleil Café has expanded to offer not just coffee and espresso beverages, but also waffles, avocado toast, soups and locally-made pastries. The specials menu changes often, showcasing homemade syrups crafted by Taylor.
Last summer, they also added a coffee cart to their offerings, giving Soleil Café the mobility to serve espresso drinks at local events, ranging from weddings to conferences.
It’s “Soleil 1.5,” Shem said with a laugh.
“It was an exciting thing for us,” he said, “because it was something that was very attainable and achievable, without biting off more than we could chew.”
They wouldn’t have been able to add the cart — and live relatively stress-free work lives — without the support of Taylor’s sisters, who were their first employees, and the team they’ve built since opening. It’s the only way she can walk away from the café, Taylor said.
When it comes down to it, coffee comes second in their lives. Shem and Taylor are partners in life first, and business partners second, they agreed.
“I think understanding that first, our relationship is priority, and then the café, has helped us succeed as a couple,” Taylor said. SWM
Soleil Café is located at 511 E. Genesee St. in Fayetteville. For hours, menu, specials and more, visit soleil-café.com or facebook.com/soleilcaféfayetteville, or follow the café on Instagram @soleil_café.