All you need is love

by Kari Walker

For better or worse, these couples rise above while working together

Photo by Kari Walker

Justin and Margaret Girouard, owners of The French Press

Margaret and Justin Girouard are an ordinary married couple: every morning Justin heads off to work while Margaret sends their two young daughters off to school and then she begins her work day. This is where ordinary ends - the Girouards not only work together, they are running an incredibly popular downtown dining destination, The French Press.

At a glance, the couple appears cool, calm and collective with Margaret overseeing many of the front of the house and office duties and Justin functioning as the head chef and managing the kitchen staff. The duo is proof it's possible to work, live and flourish together personally and professionally. The restaurant business is a risky one, but adding to the mix the owner-operators are married made The French Press less attractive to bank investors.

"The biggest obstacle for the bank was the hesitancy that we were married working together. It goes to show that it (working together) has a bad rap because it's a tough thing to do, but we get it done," Justin said. Despite the risk, the bank saw the opportunity through the eyes of the Girouards' and in 2009, The French Press opened and since the couple has learned a delicate balance of mixing work and life. "It takes so much time. I wanted to be around so we could be together," says Margaret. For Justin, it was knowing each other's identity in the relationship - "It was either we do it together or we don't do it at all. We make a really good team - my weaknesses are her strengths and vice versa. It made sense," says Justin.

Michelle and JP MacFadyen partnered up to dive into the bakery business nearly nine years ago to open Great Harvest Bread Company and both agree the rewards of being married and working together outweigh the struggles.

"I remember a time early on - maybe three months into operation- when we were low on jam or something and I made an off-hand comment to Michelle about not bringing in enough inventory - I remember the look in her eyes as she told me to focus on my work and she'd focus on hers. From that minute forward, I resolved to stay focused on my areas of work and only help in other places as needed," recalls JP. But the minor quarrels don't matter in the scheme of things to Michelle.

"I get to spend more time with my soul mate. You learn a lot about your partner when you are in business together; you learn each other's strengths and improvement areas that can help you grow closer," says Michelle.

Photo by Kari Walker

Michelle and JP MacFadyen of Great Harvest Bread Company

The MacFadyens are dedicated not only to each other and the bakery, but also to their four children they are home-schooling. "I consider it a luxury to be with my children in a home-school setting and also part of a family-run business. It's a blessing for my kids to be with their dad throughout the day, too. Growing up around our bakery is a great way for our children to learn about life. I'm not saying it's easy to balance work and home-schooling - the bakery's needs frequently rise to the top of the priority list and we have to constantly be mindful of our decisions: does my attention need to be on the bakery right now or with my children? It is a daily practice of being in the present moment," Michelle says.

There is a common thread both the Girouards and the MacFadyens stress about working as a couple in the food industry, or in any business for that matter - unfailing love. "The number one thing is you have to love each other. A lot. Like, a lot a lot," stresses Justin as he gazes at Margaret. "I can't think of anyone else with whom I would like to spend this much time," says Michelle. As for JP, it's simply this: "Ditto."

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