In 2020 Danny Cho arrived at the bakery he runs in Miramar to find something unexpected. Hundreds of customers were lined up out front.
He had advertised a pop-up store for BTS cosmetics and perfume. Named for a top K-pop group, they are more popular and rare in South Florida than anyone knew, he says.
“We didn’t expect that many people,” Cho adds.
The pop-up is just part of the success of Paris Morning Cafe & Bakery. Supported by the popularity of K-pop, Korean cuisine, and culture, Cho and the bakery’s CEO, John Nam, have opened four bakeries in South Florida and one in Bogota. In addition to hosting pop-ups, the stores sell cakes, bakery goods, rice bowls, bingsoo and boba tea.
“Since K-pop and the culture are becoming popular, those parts contribute to the business,” says Cho.
Cho, now 50 years old, moved to Florida from South Korea in 1996. He graduated from Kyung Hee University with a degree in hospitality management to pursue a master’s in the same field at Florida International University in 2000.
In 2014, Cho met the bakery’s CEO, John Nam, at a church they both visited. The pair grew closer during a missionary trip to Managua, Nicaragua.
The two opened their first location on University Drive in Davie that year. They added a place at City Hall Promenade in Miramar in 2019. The idea was to showcase Korea’s diverse and aesthetically pleasing cakes.
In Korea, cakes are a staple dessert. According to Cho, fathers often bring them to their kids after coming home from work. Cho remembers his father doing this.
With the help of pastry chef Ian Seo, the bakery has gathered customers’ interest with matcha and sweet potato cake flavors. One of the most prized sweets is red velvet sponge cake filled with fresh cream. Online reviews say their cakes are “light,” “fluffy,” and “aesthetically pleasing.”
“I’ve seen people at restaurants bring our cake to those restaurants,” says Cho. “It made me appreciate our customers.”
The cakes sell for around $26 to $36, depending on the size. There are also a few savory Korean items, including traditional Korean-style meat with rice called zipbop, which is popular among Korean students.
Paris Morning Bakery caters to K-pop fans by giving them cup sleeves decorated with K-pop artists such as BTS on their birthdays.
“K-pop cup sleeve events boosted our sales,” Cho explained. “[Customers] must buy a drink or bread to get a free cup sleeve with a member’s face on it, [along with] stickers or photocards.”
In 2020, the bakery opened its first pop-up store selling the BTS perfume line. The event was a huge PR success as fans lined up starting at 4 a.m. outside the bakery, which opened at 11 a.m.
Mabys Montero, a 21-year-old fan of BTS who attended the event, described it as exciting. She lined up at 7 a.m.
“It was organized, neatly planned, entertaining and it’s something I would do again,” Montero explains. “I really hope they continue to host events like this.”
It wasn’t always this way for Paris Morning Cafe.
“Our business went down 50% during the pandemic and shipping cost for containers [that] used to be around $6,000 [went] up to $20,000,” Cho said. “The beginning was hard for us as we went from 150-200 people coming in daily to nobody.”
Cho continued running his cafe and quickly regained his customers.
In September 2022, he and Nam opened a restaurant in the capital of Colombia, Bogota. K-pop is also a phenomenon in South America.
“We displayed a signed BTS album at our bakery [in South America], and some people were driving more than one-in-a-half hour to take pictures,” Cho recalls.
Back in Miramar, Cho hopes to open a Korean restaurant called “Ari Fire Bowl” next to the bakery where he can introduce Korean dishes to South Floridians.
As the manager of a small business who survived the pandemic and is franchising. Cho has learned alternative strategies are vital.
“How much of a backup plan you have prepared is the key to your business surviving,” Cho says.