There aren’t too many occasions where you can shop, for a good cause. If you wander into the Merci Paris concept store where you will find 3 floors of everything from clothing to home furnishings, and cozy cafes you will find a place supporting the bigger cause of helping people.
By now, you may be familiar with their iconic entrance and the little red Fiat 500 just inside the court yard. But just in case you haven’t seen it, I’ll take you on a tour in pictures through the slideshow.
I found Merci Merci back in 2009 on a trip to Paris, just after they had opened and I’ve never missed a chance to visit ever since.
After a busy week at Paris Haute Couture, I was really glad to spend my last day in Paris having lunch at Merci. The cafe downstairs is right next to the court yard garden and you can see in giant letters the word “bon”, which is French for “good”, and good it is. You can always count on fresh vegetables and fresh squeezed juices.
It’s hard to get to the cafe because of all the things you can find along the way before you get downstairs. They are known for their cute maps to tour in Paris with style, and other novelties like their Merci medallion jewelry, or postcards and fresh flowers. Don’t miss the Annick Goutal fragrance bar, their perfumes are lovely.
Downstairs is full of garden supplies for a garden in the city, from stylish pots for plants to various garden decoration, and lots of cute things for your flowers and urban gardening.
I’ve always loved their lighting and usually come home with a few really cool lightbulbs. They’ve got amazing pendant lights and other really fun home lighting.
If your interested in bringing clothing from Paris home to remember your trip, there’s a mix of cool things to see. It’s a hip and diverse crowd that flocks to Merci to see what’s new.
I like to grab a coffee in the Merci cafe & tea room with friends. With the chic Paris coffee shop like setting meets library, they have a wall of books to peruse while you relax after looking at everything in the shop from home furnishings and decor to coffee mugs and clothes!
So, are you ready for the best part???? Merci utilizes the proceeds from the sales, gifts from the Cohen’s who founded Merci, and outside donors for an endowment fund that pays for educational projects and developments in Southwest Madagascar. Where else can you shop for Isabel Marant, look at bed linens and take a coffee, all while contributing to the co-op for women and children in Madagascar?
Merci is also a launching pad for up and coming designers, so you can find a mix of some great new labels each season.
I had a chance to catch up with Jean Luc Colonna, Marketing Director for a Q&A to describe more on the inner workings of Merci. Take a look:
1. CT: The shop was created as an educational project with proceeds going to programs in Madagascar. Can you give us some insight on the impact that Merci has had in Madagascar through their contributions to educational development?
JLC: This original idea of entrepreneurial philanthropy is founded on the idea of creating, here in France, a business which, thanks to its success, allows it to guarantee the regular and perennial financing of projects supported by the funds from its subsidies.
The endowment fund is supported by the profits generated by merci, by gifts from the Cohen family as well as by outside donors. More than 300,000€ have already been given to the funds.
You will find more information about the endowment fund here http://www.merci-merci.com/en/
*Editors note, one of the reasons I love Merci is that it combines fashion, art, and architecture all while giving back to society.
2. CT: Your renowned for the rotating installations in the shop, creating a gallery of sorts for your guests. How do you go about selecting the installations each month?
JLC: It’s all about meeting interesting people and products that are sincere and not marketing driven, and trying new projects, not duplicating.
It is a WHY NOT attitude
*Editors note, amazing what you can accomplish with a WHY NOT attitude
3. CT: Every time I go to Merci, it feels like the assortment is so fresh. You never know what you will see, except of course your amazing classic products we have all grown to love like your lighting, and maps to travel the cities in style.
How many people are on the buying and merchandising team?
JLC: Fashion team of 3 leaders and 3 assistants
Home team of 3 leaders and 2 assistants
4. CT: I had heard a while back that one of the inspirations for the Merci concept came from NYC, can you tell me more about that?
JLC: No inspiration, just the fact that NY loves big retail space ( i.e. loft, workshop) more than Europe
We think SPACE IS LUXURY, and we wanted to have this generosity
5. CT: The food is so amazingly fresh. It’s a must each time I visit to eat at one of your cafes! You have a beautiful garden in back. Do some of the vegetables come from your own garden?
JLC: Unfortunately we have only a few strawberries and a few cherry tomatoes growing in the garden. This is not enough to feed 150 000 guest per year.
We receive fresh vegetables and fruits every day to serve fresh salad, fruit juices and homemade desserts.
6. CT: The last time I was in the shop was just after Paris Haute Couture. I ran into many fashionable people shopping there, such as fashion model Martha Hunt. How would you describe the Merci customer?
JLC: Our customers are diverse : celebrities next to locals, young and older, just cool that’s enough.
7. CT: You’ve recently opened an online shop which is great news those that want to experience Merci but don’t live in Paris. How’s is has the response been to the opening?
JLC: We are very happy with the response following the online shop opening.
50% of the clientele is international, coming from Europe, the US and Asia. And the editorial side is as important as the transaction side.
We love it, this is the merci experience online www.merci-merci.com