Retailing in general is an interest of mine so when I started seeing mentions in travel and/or design magazines about a “whole new concept” shop in Paris called Merci, my retail antenna went into high alert.
I soon decided that the store near the Bastille in Paris must be very cool and different or they have an excellent and active publicist. After visiting the three-story lifestyle emporium on a street packed with music instrument and motorcycle shops, I decided both are true.
It is very different than most Paris shops I’ve poked my head into. My experience has been that retailers here are big—fancy department stores like Bon Marche or Galleries Lafayette—or very tiny shops where you feel like you are entering someone’s living room.
In fact, it is considered very bad manners not to greet the shopkeeper upon entering and say a cheery Au Revoir when leaving.
Merci, housed in an 18th century building, however, has none of that kind of feeling. We meandered in the peaceful large loft like space for an hour and not a single sales person said hello or greeted us. And there were a lot of them, all wearing a take off of the classic French waiters apron.
I liked the store though. It contained lots of fun creative little gifty items, both men and women’s clothes, small jewelry department, bedding, books and paper goods and a lower level that reminded me of Conrans in the old days. Cute dishes and household good creatively displayed on vintage tables.
Fixtures were totally adaptable and movable. I got the impression that the interior arrangement could be very different the next time I pop in. It also occurred to me that it would be a great spot for a party—move stuff around, set up a bar and in short order one could see and be seen, mix and mingle.
The floors are cement, walls simply painted and a huge glass ceiling lets in glorious natural light.
The shop also includes three places for nourishment (how French is that?). A café in lower level, another on the street level and a coffee shop off the main entrance. I was particularly intrigued with the tiny coffee shop. Its walls are lined with second hand books, almost like paying homage to real books because they are a thing of the past—vintage and cool.
Some of the merchandise had a real “hip ness” to it….like the urban picnic. While cute, the contraction designed to attach to a back of a bike wouldn’t work in the space starved Paris apartments, but might be something wealthy Parisians would take to their country homes. Mostly I think it was for display and tone setting.
I loved the witty elements in the part loft, part library and part garden space. Faux windows painted on one blank wall, more faux doors in other areas and the courtyard with Fiat turned into plant holder made me smile. It’s all very inviting and simple playfulness.
I understand the owners donate a portion of the profits to charity, making it one of those “feel good” retailers. I’m sure that helps in the publicity garnering. Along with lots of minimal and urban chic products made from recycled materials.
111, boulevard Beaumarchais, third.