Work has begun on the former carriage house that will be Ghyslain on Market.

We have more on the new Ghyslain on Market, a French bistro/boutique chocolaterie/bakery opening in Nulu in April.

Work is underway on the 2,400-square-foot building at 725 E. Market Street – a former carriage  house – behind Creation Garden’s new corporate offices.

In an interview with Insider Louisville, owner Ghyslain Maurais said the Louisville restaurant will be the model for a regional expansion, with a goal of ultimately operating 15 French bistro-style restaurants around the region. Think a high-end Panera Bread for the culinary set.

Louisville will be the fourth location for the company. The family-owned operation is based in Union City, Ind., about 60 miles east of Indianapolis, where Maurais and his family make French-style chocolates as the main business.

Which is how the Quebec native got to Louisville, his first location outside Indiana.

Creation Garden is the wholesaler for his chocolates to hotels and retailers in the region, Maurais said.

Union City, he added, “is in the middle of nowhere.” But within a 200-mile radius of the city are a dozen major metropolitan areas from Chicago on the west to Cleveland on the east including both Louisville and Lexington in Kentucky, Maurais said.

Starting with Louisville, those will be his target markets over the next few years, he said.

In NuLu, his brother Mario Maurais and other family members are doing the tenant build out.

Ghyslain Maurais calculates that the family’s first-year investment in Ghyslain on Market will be about $500,000 including the tenant finish work and lease.

“And Louisville will be the model for the next restaurants,” he added. “If we can get the rent and the construction under $500,000, we go for it.”

Before Louisville, all his operations –  Ghyslain Chocolate Artisan Center in Union City, Ind.; Ghyslain Bistro in Richmond, Ind. and Ghyslain at the Sanctuary in Zionsville, Ind. – are small bistros inside old buildings in small towns where they are the only fancy restaurant.

In a larger, restaurant-mad market such as Louisville, there’s a large enough population to support a stand-alone restaurant, Maurais added: “Here, you can do anything you want.”

About Ghyslain: The company currently has 47 employees, most of whom work making Ghyslain chocolates in Union City. The new Ghyslain on Market will be a full-service restaurant and bakery and have a gelato case and a chocolate case. The average customer ticket at the company’s three other restaurants is $12.50. The new Ghyslain on Market will seat 52 people inside, with outdoor seating for 48.

About NuLu: Ghyslain on Market is one of at least four new-to-Nulu restaurants scheduled to open during 2011 including Decca, Ivor Chodkowski’s Harvest and a new, yet-unnamed wood-fired oven pizza restaurant from the same partners who own Proof on Main in the 21C Museum Hotel.