For more than 10 years, a few people who have one thing in common have been meeting at the closest thing to a Parisian sidewalk café that Tempe has to offer—P. Croissant.
All, it seems, want to practice their French language skills.
This club of French-speaking devotees has been coming together every Friday since 2007 at the French bakery, and each member brings his or her own reason for participating.
Stanley E. Rocklin, Ph.D, one of the founding members, learned to speak French because he insisted on understanding the secret code that his mother and her friend spoke in their home when he was just four years old.
He figured if his heroes, The Lone Ranger and Tex Ritter, could crack the code, so could he. More than seven decades later he is still helping people at all levels decipher the language.
In 2007 Rocklin and Guy LaRoche started meeting on a regular basis with just a small group of people who wanted to become conversational in the language of love—and have been together ever since. There are no membership fees, rules or formal commitment, just a shared desire to want to converse with others. You don’t have to be a fluent speaker; you just have a desire to learn and have fun.
Says Bethany Lambrecht, a retired high school French instructor:
“The club feeds your soul.” As a teacher she likes to think she was instructing more than a language, she was teaching world peace. Her view of language, she says, is that it’s a bridge to understanding other cultures and, ultimately, helping to make the world a smaller and a happier place.
Another longtime member, Janet Laing, says the French phase “Tres GenTil” is the best way to describe the group. Its meaning: to experience the feel of the group, which she described as welcoming and friendly, which she says has been her experience when visiting France.
Lynne Avril, a Tempe resident and artist/illustrator who has been going to meetings for more than four years, says she makes regular visits to France, and much of her art is inspired by those visits. Avril is a minor celebrity at the group, having the distinction of illustrating over 50 books in the children’s series Amelia Bedelia.
At a recent 10-year anniversary, Seth Giles, P. Croissant’s owner, provided the group with a cake and a Parisienne-style welcome, which is repeated at 10 a.m. every Friday.
The only membership requirement is a love of the French language and of French culture.
Not difficult, since the atmosphere is strongly reminiscent of a Parisian sidewalk café.
One of the benefits of attending is trying to decipher the codes on each different croissant. Giles will gladly share his croissant code with any who ask. There’s no agenda, no topics—just a casual group that welcomes new faces.
Of the drop-ins who come for occasional meetings, Giles says the staff loves to see them.
“It’s great for business,” he says—“and it’s heartwarming to see long lasting friendships develop over coffee and a croissant.”
P. Croissant is located on the northwest corner of Eliot and Warner roads in Tempe (in the same plaza as Dairy Queen).