Francois Morin's explanation for opening a boutique French bakery in downtown Billings is delightfully French.
"I happen to be living in Bililngs," he said.
Morin is a Frenchman who worked as an IT consultant for a French oil company beginning in the early 1990s. He met his wife, Marmee Connell, on the job. She's a Billings native who had come to France to work for the same company.
The two married and for the next two decades, they raised a family, moving every few years with the company to places like Singapore and South Africa. As their kids finished college and chased careers of their own, one by one they settled in North America.
Wanting to be closer to their children, Morin and his wife followed, settling down in Billings two years ago.
In that sense, Morin said, he and his wife were "aspiring to a different life."
And that's led him to open Le Fournil, (French for "the bakery",) a small shop on First Avenue North that will sell nothing but traditional French breads.
"I'm passionate about bread," he said.
Jeremiah Young, who owns Kibler & Kirch, the interior design studio on the second floor of the Stapleton Building downtown, got to know Morin through a common friend and heard about his bread-making skills. Last December, Young invited Morin to make bread for an event he was having at his studio and the bread was a hit.
Young had a small space on the ground floor of the Stapleton, nestled right between Big Dipper Ice Cream and Rockets Wraps on First Avenue North, that he thought would be perfect for the bakery. He's leased it to Morin and, after nearly a year, the shop is close to opening.
"It took a long time to get through the city," Young said.
The store's original door had been bricked over, so crews had to cut through the masonry to install the doorway. Morin spent the summer installing traditional French tile that will decorate the entryway and front of the shop. Crews installed special bread ovens from Italy on Thursday. Painters are in the space now getting the shop ready for an early November opening.
Morin will make traditional French baguettes, country breads and sourdough. He will make and bake the breads the day he sells them and they will be the only items offered in the shop; no coffee, no drinks, no pastries, just "traditional bread."
"I'm not going to compete with all the coffee shops," he said with a laugh.
Morin will use Montana wheat and other locally sourced ingredients. And he's eager to show off his fare to the community he now calls home. For Young, this is a chance for others in the city to fall in love with Morin's bread, just like he did.
"It's gonna be really charming," Young said.