Cof­fee With

Ex­pa­tri­ate Res­tau­ra­teurs So­phie, Philippe et Paul

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - CON­TENTS - AT A GLANCE The Sur­vey Café 10530 Wil­son St., Bonita Springs 239-992-2233, sur­v­ey­cafe­down­town.com/ face­book.com/TheSur­veyCafe/ Free­lance writer Glenn Miller is pres­i­dent of the South­west Florida His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

Iwalked into The Sur­vey Café on a typ­i­cally sul­try South­west Florida morn­ing last Au­gust. No other cus­tomers were yet in the quaint Bonita Springs eatery, just two of its three own­ers/op­er­a­tors: French ex­pats So­phie Pouil­let Ler­oux and her 27-year-old son, Paul Cre­pin-Ler­oux.

Be­fore in­ter­view­ing So­phie and Paul, I had of­fi­cial busi­ness to han­dle. This story is “Cof­fee With … ” So I asked So­phie, “Let me get a cup of cof­fee, if that’s OK?”

Oui. That was fine with So­phie, who pointed to a counter where self-serve cof­fee dis­pensers were primed and filled with fresh choices. “What do you rec­om­mend?” But then I an­swered my ques­tion be­fore she could re­spond. The choice prac­ti­cally screamed out at me as soon as I no­ticed it—French roast!

So­phie and her hus­band, Philippe Ler­oux, pur­chased the eatery in Novem­ber 2016 from former Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nel­son. She had first vis­ited it a few months be­fore and fell in love with the place, which is lo­cated about a block east of Old U.S. Route 41 in the heart of Bonita Springs.

The fam­ily also loves the op­por­tu­ni­ties they see in Amer­ica. “Here everything is pos­si­ble,” So­phie said.

They were ready for a change. It helped that So­phie knows the United States. She at­tended Auburn Univer­sity in the late 1970s, taught English in France and is a fan of leg­endary Amer­i­can poet Walt Whit­man.

“We started talking about go­ing to Aus­tralia,” So­phie ex­plained. “There’s no re­ally big fu­ture in Aus­tralia, so I said, ‘Let’s go to Naples [Florida].’ I thought it was a nice ad­ven­ture.”

They left their home in Rouen, cap­i­tal of France’s Nor­mandy re­gion, and moved to South­west Florida in fall 2016 to take over The Sur­vey Café. Its name comes from what Bonita Springs used to be called—Sur­vey. A cen­tury ago, Sur­vey was lit­tle more than an out­post of hearty home­stead­ers in a vir­tu­ally track­less wilder­ness be­tween the towns of Fort My­ers and Naples.

Now it’s a bustling up­scale com­mu­nity dot­ted with golf cour­ses and gated com­mu­ni­ties—and a café tucked out of sight. “Some peo­ple call this the se­cret place,” Paul said. The Sur­vey Café is on Wil­son Street, a small side street that’s easy to miss as one zips along the main road. “Se­cret hide­away or some­thing like that,” So­phie added.

Many lo­cals know it. Tourists learn about it from web­sites such as Tri­pAd­vi­sor, where “Michael J.” posted this last summer: “I have driven by this place 100 times and never knew it was here. In­cred­i­bly good food, very friendly ser­vice and in a quaint at­mos­phere. A must stop.”

So­phie ini­tially stopped in the se­cret place while vis­it­ing a cousin in Naples, who told her the café was for sale. They drove up for lunch and to have a look at the hide­away on Wil­son Street. She was smit­ten.

Af­ter she and Philippe bought the restau­rant and prop­erty, they added a din­ner menu for Fri­days and Satur­days, fur­ther en­hanc­ing their of­fer­ings that mix French cui­sine and clas­sic fa­vorites. So­phie said she found the right place and the right town at the right time in Bonita Springs. “It feels like a lot of things are hap­pen­ing,” she noted. “Everything is be­ing trans­formed, evolv­ing.”

And the Amer­i­can ad­ven­ture con­tin­ues for So­phie, her hus­band and son in The Sur­vey Café, tucked away off Old 41 on a side street named Wil­son.

So­phie Pouil­let Ler­oux and Philippe Ler­oux bought The Sur­vey Café in the fall of 2016. The cou­ple and son, Paul Cre­pinLer­oux, moved to the Sun­shine State from Rouen, France.

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