In a sun-drenched loft along Boulevard Beaumarchais in the 3ème arrondissement is Merci, a concept store by Bernard and Marie-France Cohen, the couple behind the well-known children’s clothing line Bonpoint.
I found myself being pulled by some unknown gravitational force towards Merci’s discreet entrance along Boulevard Beaumarchais one rainy morning. Since its opening in 2009 I’ve been to Merci a handful of times, so I knew the potential damage this visit could do to my finances.
But then, how can one resist this concept store’s charms, especially when you find yourself standing in the middle of its lovely cobblestone courtyard, flanked by beautiful potted plants to your left and its signature red Fiat car to your right? (Its plate number? Why, Merci, of course!)
The answer is easy: you can’t. So I didn’t fight it and went in.
Stepping inside the 1,500 square-meter shop can be likened to a shopper’s return to the Mothership : here, there is everything for everyone. For the clothes lovers, seemingly-endless racks show off vintage Dior items to Yves Saint-Laurent to Stella McCartney, at 30-40% off its original price. Young local designers’ creations are also sold here, heightening the thrill of one’s shopping experience at the thought of walking away with a one-of-a-kind item at a knock-off price. For those on the hunt for the perfect scent, make a detour to the Annick Goutal fragrance shop at the ground floor (Goutal is the late sister of Cohen). Redecorating your house? Try the second floor’s furniture section for inspiration. Looking for everyday, mundane items? The papeterie section has everything from Japanese washi adhesive tape to stylish address books.
But Merci is more than just a shopping mecca: it has a purpose, and a very noble one at that. The profits made by the store, after all operating expenses, are donated to associations helping women and children in Madagascar.
After I’d paid for my unplanned purchases (my philanthropic duty for the day), I made my way to Merci’s Used Book Café. In this wing just off the main store, used books line the wall from floor to ceiling, inviting café patrons to browse through them and eventually adopt one or five; colored pastilles indicate the prices of the books, starting from as low as 3 euros. Merci also has a restaurant that serves lunch from 12-3pm; they don’t take reservations, so be sure to get there early to grab a table. The teahouse, however, is open until 6pm.
And so I ended my morning sipping an espresso in a cozy boutique-café, surrounded by inspiring and beautiful objects after a morning of guilt-free shopping – and all this for a good cause. There is indeed a lot to be thankful for in Merci — places like this that make me love my adopted city even more.