“They don’t even taste the ice cream,” Jessica Yang said of the social-media-conscious crowd that descended this summer on Folderol, a natural wine bar and artisanal ice cream parlor in Paris that she owns and operates with her husband, Robert Compagnon. “They just let it pool into a bowl of melting liquid and die in the sun.”
In late April, a daily line began to form outside Folderol’s red storefront as the business grew in popularity, thanks in large part to TikTok. As the spring bloomed into a summer that saw a record number of tourists traveling to Europe, the lines became longer.
Throughout June and July, tourists and content creators flocked to Folderol, waiting for hours on its otherwise quiet 11th arrondissement street so that they, too, could recreate what they had seen online: fashionable folk sitting on Parisian curbs, eating ice cream from steel coupes, smoking cigarettes and swigging wine.
Both 37-year-old chefs, Ms. Yang and Mr. Compagnon met in Paris in 2010 while working in the kitchen of the highly acclaimed restaurant Guy Savoy. Mr. Compagnon, who is French American, and Ms. Yang, who is Taiwanese American, spent the next few years between Paris and New York City, working at restaurants including Le Jules Verne, Momofuku Ko, Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare and Per Se.
The couple opened Folderol in December 2020, one door down from their intimate Michelin-star-winning restaurant, Le Rigmarole. As new parents, they were inspired to start a family friendly business. “We wanted it to be a place where parents and kids could go and have fun,” Ms. Yang said about their hopes for Folderol. “Parents could have a glass of wine; kids could have some ice cream.”
Because of coronavirus restrictions, when Folderol opened, it was takeout-only. Customers would pick up a bottle from the bar’s curated selection of small-batch natural wines or a pint of seasonally inspired ice cream, hand-churned by Ms. Yang in a labor-intensive, 48-hour process.
As the pandemic eased, customers were allowed inside Folderol, but given its limited indoor seating and the al fresco dining culture of Paris, many patrons chose to eat and drink outside. This gave rise to Folderol’s curbside aesthetic, which garnered mass appeal on TikTok.
“So I keep seeing people post photos and videos from this place in Paris called Folderol, and I’ve honestly never felt like I needed to go someplace more than I do right now,” Anna Hyclak, a 35-year-old American living in London, said in a TikTok video in June. “Spiritually, it is calling to me. Like, I feel like it would cure my depression to sit on these sidewalks.”
Ms. Hyclak’s reel garnered over 20,000 likes and 167 comments, most lamenting Folderol’s viral fame. One TikTok user wrote: “I live really close to this place and it’s totally impossible to go now. The line is huge and full of teenagers/TikTokers at all times.” Another commented: “I went and it felt like a photo shoot set. Like I’m sure it was amazing before but now it’s all the fashion girlies going there for content.”
Many of Folderol’s longtime customers were put off by the crowd. “Last summer I used to come in all the time,” said Samantha Luevano, a 27-year-old copywriter in Paris. “I used to sit outside and eat my ice cream and drink wine casually. There’d be like five people here.” This summer, Ms. Luevano chose to pick up pints of ice cream and bottles of wine at Folderol instead of dining in because, she said, the hectic atmosphere caused her “anxiety.”
Mr. Compagnon likened the situation to “running a marathon in flip flops.” Their small operation struggled to keep up with demand. Frustrated clients started leaving the business negative reviews. The pretty ice cream coupes, which the owners found at Parisian flea markets, began to go missing. On four occasions, neighbors called the police about the crowd.
“We wanted our reputation to be based on the quality of the food and what we produce,” Mr. Compagnon said. “We didn’t see this coming.”
In late May, Ms. Yang and Mr. Compagnon began instituting a series of measures, which they call “roadblocks,” in an attempt to regain control of Folderol.
First, they decreased the number of wine glasses they had available to put a cap on the number of customers they could serve at once. Then they hired a bouncer to help their staff with crowd control. Next, they put up signs to the right of Folderol’s front door that read, in English: “No TikTok” and “Be here to have fun, not to take pictures.”
In July, they banned guests from sitting outside entirely — an unpopular measure with those who had come just to pose. “‘Oh, we can’t sit outside and take pictures?’” Mr. Compagnon said, imitating customers who were not aware of Folderol’s new rules. “And so they just leave.”
While Folderol was on its annual August break, the pop star Dua Lipa named Folderol as one of her “favorite French restaurants” in a Vogue France video. Despite Ms. Lipa’s shout-out, the atmosphere was noticeably calmer when Folderol reopened on August 30. “We’re feeling better,” Mr. Compagnon said. “People seem to be much more understanding.”
Bianca de la Luna, a 25-year-old model from Germany, visited Folderol the day it reopened. After admitting that she had learned about Folderol on TikTok, Ms. de la Luna whispered, “I don’t want to say that too loud in here.”
“I’d love to take the Instagram picture with the ice cream and wine,” said her friend Huy Nguyen, an 18-year-old art student. “But now it’s forbidden.”