“It’s all an experiment.”
Photo by James Jackman
In the last year, it was announced that several New York restaurants—namely Cote, Carbone, and Pastis—would be opening up satellite South Florida concepts. And while the pandemic coupled with the state’s relatively lax COVID restrictions may have accelerated this entrepreneurial wave, one new business from longtime New York hospitality vets stands out from the polished pack by attempting to turn the traditional industry rigamarole on its head.
On July 17, North Miami will gain a highly anticipated multidisciplinary venue called Paradis Books and Bread: a hybrid bookstore, wine bar with bites, a bottle shop, bakery, and, to boot, a full fledged urban garden. The concept comes from a group of friends—Brian Wright, Audrey Wright, Bianca Sanon, Ben Yen, and Joseph Chesso—who share a background working in various New York City restaurants and retailers. But by contrast to many of their previous postings, this new venture will be entirely worker-owned and designed to eschew full-service. And rather than pocketing tips, extra cash will be allocated to giving back to the community in the form of free sanitary products in the bathrooms as well as rideshare money for anyone who doesn’t feel safe driving home or for whom the city’s limited public transportation isn’t accessible.
“It became clear that what we wanted to accomplish for a variety of reasons—financial and otherwise—probably wouldn’t be possible in New York,” says Sanon, adding that the team knew they wanted to offer something more fluid than the traditional restaurant. She was raised in Fort Lauderdale, and sees the project as a natural homecoming of sorts. Sanon, a sommelier and the lead of Paradis’ wine program, started her career working at Brooklyn Roasting Company, and then moving onto a job on the operations side of fine dining spot Dirty French, where she learned about everything from payroll and employee benefits to pricing out recipes. But after a transcendental dining experience at (the now-shuttered) Semilla, she quickly applied for a job as a server—later promoted to maître d’—where her interest in wine blossomed.
“As someone from South Florida, it was at first just really about trying to fit in and get my foot in the door,” she says of her initial experience in the wine world. But now, on her own terms and free from the hustle and bustle of New York City, she’s found herself able to think actively about ways to foster inclusion within the hospitality field.
“As a Black female sommelier, I’ve had experiences with microaggressions in the past, and I do carry those with me as I move in a different, more authoritative position in this industry where I will be able to speak up more clearly when those instances occur again (because they will),” Sanon shared in an interview with newsletter Sunshine + Microbes. “But I’m mostly looking forward to connecting with the North Miami community, which has a strong Haitian population, sharing what I know about wine, food, and bread, and having the community shape our space so that it can fit their needs as well.”
Prior to opening the shop, the team decided to launch their own wine club, both in an effort to move inventory and as a way to get to know their new neighbors. When they’re fully up and running, customers will be able to buy a bottle to-go or sit for a while and peruse the books. “There are definitely a few spots to grab really delicious wine in Miami, but there aren’t really spaces that aren’t a restaurant to just hang out for a while,” says Sanon, adding that many eateries in the city tend to not know how to move natural wine bottles that may be less familiar to consumers. Overall, the goal is to keep prices affordable, while getting to share pours that they’re excited about. The same goes for the food side of the menu, where select items will likely be listed on a sliding scale.
To pair with the wine, the food bill is primarily informed by the team’s love for sourdough. Guests can expect pizzas, loaves of bread, and spreads all made in-house plus snack-y compositions like tinned fish with seaweed butter and charred lemon, fermented veggies, and carrot and bean dill dips). What’s available out back in the garden will determine what’s being served out of their open-concept kitchen; right now, that means drying peppers, pickling tomatoes, and spiking non-alcoholic cocktails with freshly cut lemongrass. “It’s all an experiment,” Sanon adds. “One of the dreams for the garden is to eventually have a free store where we can give out veggies.”
Paradis’ bookstore—one of few in the city—also revolves around this community-first mindset. Partner Audrey Wright, who formerly worked at famed radical NYC bookshop Bluestockings, notes that there will be a mix of new and used books for sale—“we’re pretty critical about the flaws in society and our book options definitely reflect that”—as well as consignment opportunities and a local lending library program. “We’ll try it out and see how it goes, but we’re not going to come after people if the books don’t find a way back to us,” she says with a laugh. “Overall, like everything else we’re doing, we hope that this will be a space where people will sit back with a glass of wine, flip through a book, and learn something new without the pressure of buying.”
Paradis Books and Bread is located at 12831 W Dixie Hwy, North Miami, FL 33161. Beginning Saturday, July 17, they’ll be open Thursday to Monday from 9 am to 11 pm (kitchen closes daily from 3 pm to 6 pm).
Emma Orlow is a contributor for Thrillist.