Now, here on the blog i like to talk about design, inspirational people and slow living amongst other categories. I often write about lifestyle design and the art of living in a mindful way. Shopping and shops in particular is not something i cover much. The reason for this? No reason, except that i’m often underwhelmed with the shopping experience. Do you not find the shopping experience really important? Well i do.
With the rise of the internet, retail shops have had to work much harder to offer us consumers the incentive to spend our increasingly limited time visiting their shop and hand over our hard earned cash. Most of the time you’ll be able to get the very same product online at a better price. So why shop offline?
For me, it’s the pleasure i get to potentially use all my five senses and interact with people. Often, at that moment, the product becomes secondary and i leave inspired, rejuvinated and smiling. Isn’t that part of mindful living? So, what needs to happen for this to translate into a memorable shopping experience where i long to return?
There are many ways to skin a cat but there’s only one way to my purse. I require excellent customer service, knowledgeable staff, a friendly atmosphere and an inspiring interior. It goes without saying that they need to have the products i want. Not much to ask then, hey? Am i being unreasonable? I think not!
In the uk we have systematically killed off the notion of the small independent shop and managed to create high streets filled with chain stores that often make me ashamed of living in london. Badly designed, badly run, badly serviced and frankly places you won’t ever find me in. This was certainly not the case when i arrived here over 30 years ago. I’m happy to say that there’s a backlash going on and many more entrepreneurs are opening little independent shops and satisfying my five senses once again. Have a read of richard huntington’s excellent post about the future of the uk high street. In fact, if you’re interested in brands, have a snoop around his thought provoking blog.
So, what’s a girl to do who likes to shop?
Ha. Yes, like the discerning consumer that i am, i seek out my favourite haunts. Let me introduce you to one of them. When in nice the other day, looking to stock up on pens and accessories, i visited the very unique creutz et fils. I’ve been in love with this shop for many years and remember clearly the first time i came across it. As a pen collector and stationery fanatic i thought i’d found heaven.
Only 30 minutes to closing time, i rushed in, fondly greeted the ladies, did a spot of shopping and asked whether i could quickly take some shots and ask some questions so i can blog about them. Here’s the result of this brief encounter. Meet janine and janine, merci pour le cadeaux. J’aime le stylo!!
Creutz et fils was founded in 1896 by charles creutz I. It has been a family business ever since. Taken over by charles creutz II and now firmly run by his daughter janine forestier, this shop is as authentic as they come. Janine started working full-time in the shop back in 1976 and she tells me that her father was very encouraging and gave her free reign to really make her mark. I was totally inspired by that. Most family run businesses i’ve come in contact with, the founders (mostly men) have much trouble letting go and hence struggle to allow the new generation to make necessary changes.
Janine, apparently at 8 years of age repaired a pen of her teacher that stopped working. Was this in her blood? Was her fate sealed? I think so!
The shop’s interior has not been changed very much since the very beginning and that’s exactly what gives it its charm. Take a look at this photo. Janine was unsure of its exact date or year but thinks they were showing off their newly acquired telephone. For any historians out there, do you know roughly what year this could be? The man sitting is charles creutz I, the founder.
The shop has been known and frequented for general generations by fans and collectors and many people travel from far afield to come and visit, buy something or get their pens repaired. The exterior has not changed much, but everything around it has. Spot the car!
Wall to wall custom made wooden drawers with a perfect vintage patina line the walls of the entire interior. I think today this sort of design is highly sought after and reminds me of shabby chic. This is complimented by perfectly polished glass cases which are solely dedicated to writing. I love what’s behind the doors of the cabinets. All the individual labelled drawers for all the thousands of accessories they sell. It’s like a treasure trove and i so enjoy watching them know exactly where to find what. Janine and her girls, magali and noele respectively, greet you in white coats and are experts in their field. There is nothing they don’t know or very little they don’t have and i always come away inspired, with a new purchase and a little new knowledge. Best of all, they love their jobs and love serving you.
And that my friends is a great shopping experience!