In the U.S., it's sometimes hard to imagine what life was like before our big-box home improvement centers proliferated. Once, we had friendly neighborhood hardware stores that carried nearly everything we needed for the average home project. The staff knew us by name, and were often so familiar with our projects that they could even predict what we might need next on our third, fourth, or fifth visit of the day! Well, in downtown Marseille, in the beautiful south of France, such a place still exists. Founded in 1827, the Maison Empereur claims to be the oldest hardware store in France. And, in our opinion, it is definitely the coolest hardware store in France ;)
It happens to be one of Cathy's favorite spots in France. As you may know, Cathy and Pierre travel to France quite often, as Pierre's mother still lives in Marseille. And no trip to the south of France is complete for Cathy without a trip to the Empereur. The crew back in Austin are never surprised to receive multiple images of Cathy's latest finds at this unique and charismatic store.
In the rear of the store is a charming, and secretive, bed-and-breakfast. An homage to the inventory of the store out front, the apartment offers an escape from the modern world. No wifi, no modern amenities, not even an elevator. Just a trip back in time with a chic twist!
Boasting over 30,000 items in only 10,000 square feet, the store is chock full of interesting objects. Lighting, candy dispensers, artisan soaps (and an antique wash basin to go with it!), kitchen collectibles, and even clothing adorn the shelves of this distinctive shop. If you find yourself visiting Marseille in the future, add this to the top of your to-do list and make sure you have some extra time to take it all in!