Friday, June 15, 2007


Clearly, I haven't been frequenting the be-all-and-end-all of my favorite Paris stores, BHV (bay-osh-vay) often enough. I passed by today as I headed to rue Vieille du Temple, and there were so many more outlets than I remembered last time, just a few months ago. One store for pets, one for men (what's the diff?), plus the usual tile, plumbing and other extensions of the main store. Do we hear a major real-estate-vacuum whoosh going on as the store expands in the Hotel de Ville area north of rue de Rivoli?

Since its humble origins in 1901, it seems that the BHV (Bazar de l'Hotel de Ville) has apparently never stopped expanding to meet the needs of its clientele. For years when I was a mere touriste in Paris, I did all my souvenir shopping in the sous-sol of BHV: house-number signs, "Essuyez Vos Pieds" signs for my back door, little hardware gadgets that you can't find elsewhere, and especially the old-fashioned corkscrews made from fantastic gnarled sections of grape vine. All the items that I thought (and still do think) were quintessentially French.

BHV has entered the 21st century with aplomb and clearly a good, albeit agressive, marketing plan. Even on this little side street just behind the main store, there is a fabulous mur vegetal, like the one at the Musee du Quai Branly. Adds much-needed greenery and a lot of visual appeal to an otherwise bland commercial setting.

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