February 26, 2024

Cult Store: a landmark hardware-drome in Marseille

How most effective to explain the sprawling hyper-quincaillière that is Marseille’s Maison Empereur? It’s un…

Cult Store: a landmark hardware-drome in Marseille

How most effective to explain the sprawling hyper-quincaillière that is Marseille’s Maison Empereur? It’s un super magasin, sans pareil. A wondrous, 1,300sq m components-drome of catering tools and Do-it-yourself equipment. The Two Ronnies’ “Fork Handles” seller on steroids. A lovingly curated, grand-scale utility get rid of unfold across a full corner of the previous port’s Rue des Récolettes.

Laurence Renaux-Empereur is the shop’s very first feminine proprietor in its practically 200-yr history © Claire Demeslay

To the persons of Marseille, Maison Empereur is a landmark and establishment, opened in 1827 by wood-carver and toolmaker Louis Empereur. For out-of-towners, a rainy afternoon of a Côte d’Azur holiday can be joyfully whiled amid the store’s two floors. It normally takes a couple of hrs to search even a portion of the rooms – almost everything you ever required and necessary for your home, lovingly exhibited subsequent to things you never knew existed. There are fixtures and fittings, spoons and delicate furnishings, pots and pans, sinks and sneakers, labelled anywhere achievable “French Manufacture”. There is extremely minor that plugs in and absolutely nothing that demands a WiFi signal. For me, stepping via Maison Empereur’s doors induces electrifying frissons of uncooked drive.

The shop’s counter of Japanese knives
The shop’s counter of Japanese knives © Frédéric Tchalekian
Maison Empereur is located in the old port of Marseille
Maison Empereur is positioned in the old port of Marseille © Frédéric Tchalekian

Rows of Japanese knives, saws and shears are housed under glass like treasured museum displays, along with a somewhat deadly-searching champagne sabre and at least 30 distinctive forms of scissors. The wire mini-tombola cage on the conclusion of a broom take care of turns out to be a device for rolling up windfallen walnuts. Not to be bewildered with the humane mouse lure that tempts rodents into a spiralling, a single-way maze. Up coming I spy a smaller anvil and a selection of lemon-formed soaps. 

This self-styled Droguerie Générale was recommended to me by designer Tom Dixon. “We have a lot of perfectly-recognized customers one of our huge fans is fashion designer Simon Porte Jacquemus,” suggests Laurence Renaux-Empereur, the Maison’s first female proprietor and a seventh-technology Empereur descended from a spouse and children of 18th-century grasp nail-makers – and whose outdoorsman father was, incidentally, part of the French Olympic shooting staff in the 1960s. She has expanded the house to include a café and a chic garments shop supplying durable significant-waisted workwear trousers, bleu de chine jackets, clogs and the kind of chapeau Provençal that Jeanne Moreau favours in Jules et Jim

The “wood maintenance” section 
The “wood maintenance” section  © Frédéric Tchalekian
The chambre d’hôtes over the shop – the walls are hung with vintage tools
The chambre d’hôtes over the shop – the walls are hung with vintage resources © Frédéric Tchalekian

The 193-calendar year-aged retail store, Renaux-Empereur suggests, life by the uncomplicated but demanding philosophy of its faithful consumers: “To prioritise high quality and authenticity in anything they do.” This ethos has also been used to the delightfully appointed, linen-draped chambre d’hôtes – mattress-and-breakfast – over the shop. Decor is très Empereur: dark walls are hung with classic tools the bathtub is zinc and wooden and a pleasant aroma of linseed oil and Marseille soap infuses the air. “It’s decorated like an condominium in the late 19th century,” suggests Renaux-Empereur, adding that the keep is located in “le ventre de Marseille” (“the belly of Marseille”). “There are various dining places nearby: Sauveur, just one of the city’s oldest pizzerias, Épicerie L’Idéale, La Mercerie, Cafe Fémina… And lots of other folks. There’s also a famous spice shop, Saladin, and herboristerie Père Blaize.” The latter even pre-dates Empereur by 12 decades, building this quarter of the town as historic as it is happening.

4 Rue des Récolettes, 13001 Marseille empereur.fr, @maisonempereur