Christina Ha has always been a baker, but never set out to do it for a living. Some of her earliest and best memories are from shaping cookies and talking to her mom while waiting for them to rise and caramelize in the oven. Baking has always been a hobby of hers and she had fantasies about baking all day. They were never any realistic fantasies; she fantasized about sitting in her beautiful white kitchen surrounded by pretty things and her reality was that she was crammed into a tiny NYC apartment where she could smell when the rice was done cooking on the stove while showering in the bathtub in her kitchen. She imagined that she would be a sweet, graceful host who could just “whip up” a quick 3-tier cake. The truth is, she was on a career path in fashion PR and just happened to bake on the side. At some point, she realized that her hobby was making her happier than her career and something had to go.
It went the same year she met Simon Tung.
Simon Tung was probably born with a smile on his face. Even his parents talk about what a great baby he was – always giggling and a bit of a rascal. He grew up a happy go-lucky child who knew very much about the work hard, play hard model. He’s been working since he was 12, starting as a factory worker who sewed belt loops and had on more than one occasion, snuck out of the house to attend parties and concerts. Simon had settled into a career as a legal recruiter and he loved his job so much, he dreamed of one day buying out his firm. When the economy took a turn for the worse, it knocked the work right out from under him and he picked up a side gig as a party promoter. It was at a fateful party on Halloween 2009 that he bumped into Christina Ha.
The two were totally incompatible as far as couples go. Christina was gearing up to attend the weekend pastry program at the Institute of Culinary Education. She took herself too seriously and wanted to really embrace this future career, even if it meant being socially isolated for the 8 months it would take to complete the program as she juggled a full time job and school. Simon was in bachelor mode and going out every weekend, and roaming around the city on weekdays while hunting for his next great job. He was so good at planning that he arranged his 10 year high school reunion and was going to weddings every other weekend. He was at his social prime. Their roommates knew each other and commented that they were not looking for the same things.
But baking brought them together. Simon had long wanted to go to culinary school and had wanted to open a food truck one day. Christina wanted to learn how to parallel park a big truck and bake for a living. When an opportunity to open a business at the Hester Street Fair came up in early 2010, they jumped at the chance. They weren’t immediately sure of what their business would be, just that it would involve baked goods. Their menu fell into Christina’s hands.
In 2009, Christina enrolled in a professional macaron baking program at La Haute Pâtisserie Pierre Hermé in Paris. The problem was, she wasn’t a professional and she couldn’t speak French, but she managed to make it through without being the worst in the class. That little bit of encouragement made her obsessed with macarons, even though in New York, not that many people had caught wind of the special treat. The two determined that they would use Christina’s obsession to open Macaron Parlour.
The direction of the company was initially unclear as they scrambled to form a business within six weeks. But when they came up with the candied bacon with maple cream cheese macaron and the red velvet macaron, they both understood that they were making a new kind of macaron – an American kind with no limitations. According to Google, no one in the world had ever made brown sugar macarons before. Because Christina was still early in her pastry program, she had no idea what the limits of tradition were so she broke all the rules and the brown sugar macaron became the “pancake” to the candied bacon and maple of their breakfast-inspired macaron. Together, Simon & Christina came up with a menu containing classic flavors to draw in the traditionalists and some crazy, fun flavors to cross the bridge between the traditional and the more familiar. They wanted to appeal to the little child in everyone with flavors like Cheetos, s’mores, and giggity (which is based off of a Snickers bar) and their fans will say that they have achieved their goal.
Within 2 years, Simon charmed his way into various markets and stores and gained his own special following. His infectious laugh turned repeat customers into friends and fellow vendors into our closest advisors. Christina went to work at Locanda Verde and Smith Canteen to learn more about the pastry world and improve her skills. The two developed the business in their own special ways.
In March 2011, Simon proposed. That year, Christina had gone back to school to learn how to run a food business and realized upon completing her business plan that they should think about opening a store. In February 2012, the two signed a lease for a store in the East Village. Two months later, they had a wedding at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens where they said their vows under the cherry blossoms. Then on October 2012, their store opened and Christina rejoiced when she was finally able to expand her menu. The menu at the Macaron Parlour shop boasts cookies like the kitchen sink and chocolate chip fleur de sel, and a croissant that the French come to taste. A little over a year later, the second Macaron Parlour opened February 2014 at 560 Columbus Avenue. Almost five years after opening doors at their East Village shop, they relocated the bakery and the kitchen to a larger space at 44 Hester Street. The new location opened the first week of April 2017, right after Christina went back to school for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program. Once again, Simon was the face of the company while Christina juggled school and kitchen production.
But things were remarkably different with their new location when compared to their first store opening. Their first store was delayed by 4 months, stressed them out like crazy, and magically moved 10 lbs from Simon’s body to Christina’s. This time around, the build out was a breeze, the staff was already trained, and they had enough time to foster 2 bottle baby kittens. What changed? In 2013, 9 months after opening their first store, an emaciated kitten walked into their lives and changed the stakes of the game. He changed the way they managed their work life balance because suddenly, their life was about more than work. After finding Mr. Socks, their feline family expanded to also include Pickle and Tia (@iamthemightypeanut). In 2014, Christina went on to co-found NYC’s first cat cafe, Meow Parlour, with a member of the Macaron Parlour team. After fostering over 200 cats, the couple decided to organize NYC’s first feline symposium – Cat Camp. When Christina and Simon decide to commit to something, they truly believe in going all in. You can thank Mr. Socks if you’re a huge cat fan. He’s also still cool with receiving fan mail even if you’re not.
This is only the beginning of a much longer story. The business is about the unlikeliest of love stories – between Little Miss Serious and Mr. Fun Times and of combining the tradition of the French macaron with the memories of growing up and eating the food of America. We strive to combine our talent with our crazy ideas to break all sorts of boundaries to make the most delicious sweets around. Macaron Parlour is the place where fun goes to eat.