The space next to Vieux Lyon French Bakery became available when Mohammed Halaoui and his wife, Manira Camara, needed it the most.
The bakery the couple and co owners opened at 1774 Brice Rd. in Reynoldsburg in 2019 was wildly popular, so much so that there were often lines of people outside the storefront. Halaoui and Camara dreamed of what it would be like to have the spot next door.
“Out of the blue sky, it became available,” Halaoui said.
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After a challenging prep time during which Vieux Lyon closed for eight months, the couple celebrated a grand opening Dec. 3 at 1792 Bryce Rd. The new space boasts ample seating, a cozy tea room, and a mini market that features French and European foods and souvenirs.
“I’m very humbled and very grateful,” Halaoui said.
The new location marks a milestone in a project that has been a long time in the making. When Camara first arrived in Reynoldsburg in 2011, she knew she wanted to open a French bakery, Halaoui said, because she didn’t see one in town.
But it wasn’t until 2017 that Camara obtained her home baking license and got to work. Two years later, the couple opened their storefront at 1774 Bryce Rd., selling bread, brioche, tarts, and French pastries. The name, Vieux Lyon, translates to Old Lyon, a spot Camara had taken Halaoui to when they first met.
“Our history started in Lyon, why not represent that in what we’re doing?” Halaoui said.
Though the couple met in 2009 in France, the two had been talking to each for a year before seeing each other in person. Halaoui, who is Lebanese on his father’s side and African on his mom’s side, immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 from Guinea. Camara was born in Guinea, but grew up in Lyon, France in a town called Saint Genis Leval.
While visiting family in central Ohio, Halaoui came across a family friend who told him that she knew a young lady who lived in France who would make the perfect partner for him. Recently divorced, Halaoui was lonely and interested to learn more. An aunt of his who lived in Belgium followed up on the family friend’s suggestion and connected Halaoui with Camara.
On the pretext of visiting his sister in Brussels, Halaoui visited Europe in 2009, including in his itinerary a stop in France to visit Camara and her family. Four days later, the couple married. They would spend the next two years living apart before Camara moved to central Ohio, and now the name of their bakery serves as a sweet reminder of their origin story. The spot was sorely missed by customers when Halaoui and Camara shut their storefront down to begin working on the new space.
Customers called Camara begging for treats for events. Camara, with her big heart, obliged. Baking the items out of her home, she drove to hand deliver them to customers, or met customers at the bakery for pickup.
“We have some kind of connection with almost everybody,” Halaoui said. “We don’t see them as customers, we see them as family and friends.”
The couple never intended for Vieux Lyon to close for eight months, but the inspection process took longer than anticipated. The whole project was a lengthy one, requiring them to address plumbing, electricity, and more, working from the ground up.
“This is the most challenging event we have ever faced in our lives,” Halaoui said.
But despite the hurdles involved, the couple has successfully crossed the finish line. Now that Vieux Lyon is open once again, Halaoui is very much looking forward to reconnecting with customers.
“It feels like a dream come true,” he said.
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