Mary Margaret Stewart has taken the pandemic pivot to a whole other level.
As if navigating the economic rollercoaster of the past 17 months wasn’t enough, she was hit with a double whammy when the 1960s-era building on Stinson Beach that houses Stewart’s wildly popular Siren Canteen required a rebuild by its owner, the National Park Service, and won’t likely reopen until 2023.
Unbowed, Stewart and her daughter Iman Bengana seized their unexpected hiatus and just opened Millie’s Crepe et Creme in a tiny-but-gorgeous, French decor-laden space at the southern end of the Mill Valley Lumber Yard.
They serve – you guessed it – an array of sweet and savory crepes, soft serve ice cream and milkshakes. And if you had any doubt, they’re opening over Labor Day week was, in Stewart’s words, “absolutely nuts.” “I said to myself, ‘what have I done?’” she says with a laugh.
Stewart is no stranger to taking chances, however. At 18, the Pittsburgh, Pa. native “high-tailed it to France” and went to apparel design/draping school in Paris, working the outdoor markets like Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt flea market and wholesaling “funky streetwear” in France and Japan. She moved back to the U.S. 12 years later and ran a retail design studio for eight years, later settling in Marin, where the green movement had a big impact on her design and production processes.
Before she did, however, Stewart had spent most summers for 15 years working La Crêpe Suzette in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, a shop owned by Constance Douat that was quite similar to Millie’s, an inspiration she’s thought about for years ever since.
Stewart first opened Siren Canteen in March 2014, with the space attached to a lifeguard tower and tucked into the sand dunes at Stinson Beach. Stewart focused more on standards like fish and steak tacos, burritos and burgers and fries – all made from scratch and deploying the same sustainability-minded influences as those she learned in fashion.
“I always loved the idea of opening a little street kiosk in Paris,” she says. “Millie’s is the Mill Valley version of it.”