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Merci Very Much

By Monica Ainley

I dream of those magical courtyards in Paris into which you can catch but a brief glimpse before the gargantuan “cochère” doors swing closed again.  Their unattainable beauty is both mysterious and mildly frustrating to the curious “flanneur”.

Somewhere in the Northeast Marais, some such doors have been defiantly swung open to members of the public apparently trendy enough to be aware of the existence of Merci.  The Hotel Particulier turned Loft-space is a delightful take on the often deeply intimidating “Concept Store.” Just in case you are as lost as I am on what indeed the concept of such an establishment might be, it seems the idea is to tailor a shop towards some semblance of a lifestyle theme, which cross-sells without using separate departments. Of course, such a concept in itself risks falling strait into the category of the utterly pretentious from birth. Concept Stores became the thing in the early two thousands with the likes of Urban Outfitters in America and of course, Collette in Paris.

Merci was created in 2009 by Marie-France and Bernard Cohen, founders of the beloved children’s clothing store Bonpoint. They had the market sense to come up with the concept of well-curated “selective” shopping experience with a charitable-retail goal, which suited (and continues to suit) the economic climate.  The space is quite breathtaking and the whole mood of the store itself is refreshing. And it has a conscience. After it breaks even all of Merci’s proceeds are donated to a co-op for young women in Madagascar.

But the best thing about Merci is you have the mild sensation that you’re welcome. We stayed two hours. We played with knickknacks, picked things up and put them back down. Wandered. Tried on incredible clothing we had no intention whatsoever of buying. Shared cake in the café surrounded by impressively deteriorating shelves full of classics. We even went to the “home furnishing section” where I passed out in a big leather chair for at least twenty-three minutes without so much as an “ehm” in my direction. Then, we drove home in the store’s signature red Beetle that sits parked in the courtyard adorned in all its tastefully decorative festive glory. Last time I tried this at Collette, I was driven home by les flics. All in all, Merci is the perfect shopathon for the modern “fofolle”.


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