If you recall back in August of this year, Tucson Foodie’s esteemed editor, Matt Sterner, reported a rather sad happening. The longtime owners of La Baguette Parisienne on Pantano and Broadway were shutting their doors for good.
Mario and Francois Marini opened La Baguette Parisienne (not to be confused with La Baguette on Prince and Campbell, the bakery adjacent to Ghini’s) in 1983, and it has been a neighborhood staple for fresh bread, tasty pastries, and sweet confections for nearly four decades. It was just time for Mario and Francois to retire as the bakery game is not an easy one even with their son Norm helping out for many years.
What were east side residents supposed to do? Where would they get their baguettes, croissants, or cinnamon rolls that are so big it would make Princess Leia buckle under the weight?
Well, we are here to proudly announce that La Baguette Parisienne has only closed for a short spell because new owners with jovial youthful energy have taken over, giving it some well-needed upgrades.
The best part is, today, Friday, November 18, is its official grand reopening.
New owners Kim Ireland and EJ Marx have been in the Tucson service industry for a good run but this is their first foray into the wild and wonderfully flour-caked world of owning a bakery.
“We just saw this opportunity and had to go for it,” said Ireland while prepping, cleaning, and even baking before the big opening. “Neither one of us has ever done something like this. To be honest, I am totally terrified but as my dad always said, if something doesn’t terrify you then it is not worth doing.”
You might have been served by Ireland in various bars across Tucson, most recently Danny’s Baboquivari, and you’ll remember her as the tall, brash blonde bumping old-school hip-hop. Marx has been a chef most of his life and was the owner and operator of an inventive hot dog cart, Star Dog, which featured a banh mi dog — a personal favorite of mine.
Ireland and Marx secured La Baguette Parisienne in October 2022 and immediately got to work. They replaced decades-old shelves, countertops, and display cases with sleek new installments that give the reveled institution a fresh new glow up. They brought in longtime friends to run the front and bake in the back, some of which are accomplished chefs and servers.
Outside of the restoration and hiring of talented friends, that is the only change Ireland and Marx have made. The beloved recipes the Marini’s have kept safe and secret for nearly 40 years have now been passed on to a new generation.
“If we were to change any of the recipes here, or brought in anything trendy, there would probably be a riot,” said Ireland. “I mean, Francois and Mario were literally going to just lock the door and walk away. No way. I have been coming here since I was a kid and EJ has always loved this place. It just felt sad to think of La Baguette Parisienne not being a part of Tucson anymore.”
Once the recipes and the routines got smoothed out, Ireland and Marx began a grab-and-go window service with big blue arrows instructing patrons to go slightly right of the front doors for French-inspired bread, decadent delicacies, and ooey-gooey goodies.
Two days before the grand opening, there was still a lot to be done, but crowds of customers were already queued up for the tempting treats.
“Oh you’re still open,” chipped a lady, gleefully. She has been coming to La Baguette Parisienne since it opened. “I am so happy to see that it isn’t gone. Thank you so much.”
Not only does La Baguette Parisienne offer single-item delights but they also provide wholesale baked goods for popular establishments here in Tucson. So, not only did Ireland and Marx have to get acquainted with the “hows and whats” of continuing the tradition of flaky, buttery, sweet, and sticky joyances, but to bake in bulk for delis and restaurants — high-end and casual — on a very regular basis.
“It is super hard work but it is so worth it,” said Ireland, smiling while she tried to find a place for a festive holiday decoration. “This is a family affair, too. I have two boys — EJ has children — and we just wanted to create and build something for them to be passed down. It’s not just pride in ownership but it is pride in the community. We just want to continue the tradition that the Marini’s started. Like I said, we’re terrified but so excited.”
The bakery is open 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Tuesday - Sunday and closed on Monday.
Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine that segued into contributing to numerous magazines, websites, newspapers and weeklies throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Mark interviewed bands,...