ISSUE 38  |  Kitchens Around the World

France’s Oldest—and Most Esteemed—Hardware Store

September 24, 2014 11:00 AM

BY Sarah Lonsdale

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Paris has E. Dehillerin, France’s oldest kitchenware store, established in 1820. Its longstanding competition in Marseille? Maison Empereur, a family-run institution established in 1827 by François Empereur that lays claim to being the oldest hardware and cookware shop in France. The store is overseen by the decidedly discerning Laurence Guez, who took the helm in 2000, the sixth generation to carry on her family business. 

All the staples once offered by France’s traditional (and now shuttered) neighborhood kitchen emporiums can still be found at Maison Empereur—along with hardware items, bathroom goods, toys, and a slew of classic French staples for the home, from wicker chairs and enamel sinks to espadrilles. Think of Maison Empereur as the local hardware store meets Merci. Well worth a detour should you be in the South of France. 

Photographs courtesy of Maison Empereur, unless otherwise noted.

Above: The shop is located in the heart of Marseille in a trio of buildings that are close to each other. Photograph via Citadineries

Above: Locally made Savon de Marseille (another area institution) and a display of woven striped towels. 

Above: Maison Empereur sells classic French toys, including music boxes, playing cards, and string fishing nets.

Above: A display of pots and pans by French favorites such as Le Creuset and de Buyer. 

Above: More pans for every occasion (blinis, crêpes, chestnuts, and an oval Poele à Poisson for fish).

Above: A small sampling of the baking tools on offer in the kitchen section. (For those suffering from Opinel ennui, check out Maison Empereur’s extensive selection of knives.)

Above: Part of Maison Empereur’s appeal is the traditional Old World setup, with leather bags hanging from the ceiling, straw hats piled on tables, and linen sold by the meter.

Above: Traditional enamel sinks and porcelain fixtures on display in the bathroom section. Note the hammocks strung from the ceiling in the distance. 

Below: Maison Empereur is located in three buildings that are close to each other in the center of Marseille. The Quincaillerie Generale is at 3 Rue d’Aubagne, shown below. The Arts Culinaires is at 4 Rue des Récolettes, and the Coutellerie is at 6 Rue des Récolette.

Check out our posts on E. Dehilleren, the go-to source for kitchenware in Paris, and La Trésorerie, Paris’s new housewares shop. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay near Saint-Tropez (about a 30-minute drive from Marseille), consider La Suite Cassis, and for a worthwhile outing, see our post on a Provençal Winery