‘I Couldn’t Find A Decent Macaron In All of DC’
Ana claudia lopez has the most colorful job in all of georgetown, but life wasn't always bite-sized rainbows.
In 2008, it was black and white, and increasingly grim. After earning a master's degree from George Washington University, Ana Claudia began working as a financial analyst at Freddie Mac—just in time for the financial crisis to hit.
‘It went from being an amazing place to work to not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow, and wondering are they going to shut us down. It was a very stressful and uncertain environment.’
When Ana Claudia and her husband welcomed a baby girl the following year, the first-time mom wanted to spend more time with her daughter. She took a year-long sabbatical from Freddie Mac and began reassessing what was once a solid life plan.
Born and raised in Torreón, a city in the Chihuahuan Desert of northern Mexico, Ana Claudia came from a family of entrepreneurs. She’d always aspired to own a successful business like her father, and when the opportunity arose that year, she asked herself what type of shop she’d want to open.
‘My favorite dessert was lacking in the city. I could not find a decent macaron in all of DC. My husband had just flown back from France and he bought me a box of macarons and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I’m in heaven.’ And then the idea came.’
Ana Claudia spent two years searching for the perfect small space—her heart set on Georgetown, where businesses like Georgetown Cupcake and Sweetgreen were successfully launched. With no prior history as a business owner, Ana Claudia struggled to find a landlord who would lease to her. When a space finally opened in the Georgetown Park plaza across from Dean & DeLuca, she jumped.
That same week, Ana Claudia learned she was pregnant with her second child. Her son was born in September of 2013, and exactly one month later, Olivia Macaron opened its doors.
‘I’d been trying to get this good space for two years, and nothing was going to stop me now. My son would come to work with me, and all the associates fell in love with him. They were so sweet helping me. I’d be at the register, then changing diapers and feeding him in the back office. I got to bond a lot with him because it was like, ‘It’s you and me, baby!’’
Ana Claudia worked seven days a week to launch the business, pushing her son’s stroller through the snow that first winter on her way into the shop. She laughs about it now, but says it felt ‘tragic’ at the time—a year full of little mistakes and a steep learning curve.
‘People open their own business because they only want to work half the time, and instead you’re working double. It was tough keeping a balance until I could bring people in, and train and trust them.’
Timing is everything—a lesson Ana Claudia learned as well as anyone thanks to Freddie Mac. But where the macaron was concerned, things were looking brighter. The sweet, meringue-based confections had been a staple in every French patisserie for over a century, but were just making their U.S. when Olivia Macaron opened.
‘We have a sweet tooth in the U.S., but we’re also becoming more conscious of what we put in our bodies. A macaron is a perfect-size bite. Having one isn’t going to break your diet. There’s a huge market here, and I don’t think the macaron is going to get old.’
With additional locations in Tyson’s Corner and Montgomery Mall, a fourth opening outside of the DMV, and future plans for more mall locations nationwide, Olivia Macaron is capitalizing on the craze. Ana-Claudia had the foresight to open a kitchen in Fairfax, which has enabled them to control their quality and distribution as the business continues to expand.
Batches of more than 15 flavors are made with industrial mixers, producing ‘a lot’ of macarons each week. The naturally gluten-free desserts have become particularly popular at weddings and other special events.
‘Sometimes I would go to an event and see people grabbing their cupcake and looking for a place to hide so they can eat it, or they’re using a fork and knife. Macarons are elegant. They look gorgeous and they’re not messy.’
Perfect for sneaking at work, too. Five years into the business, Ana Claudia still eats her favorite dessert daily—rotating flavors monthly. They’ve become her standard contribution at every social event, cocktail party, and Christmas dinner back home in Mexico, so don’t bother requesting anything else.
Many of Olivia Macaron’s customers seek them out from overseas; others, locals who stop by every afternoon to read the paper over an espresso and macaron. The shop also provides all of the coffee and macarons for Crumbs & Whiskers, the Georgetown cat café that can’t prepare food on its premises.
Ana Claudia says her shop makes macarons with a heart—regularly participating in community events and giving to charitable causes. The macarons are purchased with the same ethos.
‘I love that people come in because they want to celebrate something, or give someone a gift. Even when they’ve messed up and want to say I’m sorry, they’re doing it with love. It’s so colorful and fun, and it’s a business that brings happiness.’
It seems only fitting that the shop was named for the person who’s brought much of the same to Ana Claudia.
‘Olivia is my daughter’s name. Originally I was opposed to naming it after her, because she’s going to have a big head, and I knew I’d have other kids. But going back to the beginning of the story, I left my job when my daughter was born, so it’s all because of her. The problem is now I have a toddler who’s demanding his own business.’