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Best Browsing: France’s Oldest Hardware Store and Home Emporium, Now with a Pop-Up in Paris

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Best Browsing: France’s Oldest Hardware Store and Home Emporium, Now with a Pop-Up in Paris

May 1, 2024

I accompanied my husband on a recent work trip to France—three cities in five days. We only had a few free hours in Marseille and the rain never stopped. No matter: we headed to Maison Empereur: France’s oldest and most esteemed hardware store, which, in Remodelista terms, is one of the world’s great pilgrimage destinations (it’s also one of France’s EPVs or Living Heritage Companies).

In business since 1827 and spread across two labyrinthine floors near Marseille’s old port, Maison Empereur carries on the tradition of the great everyday goods shop. It’s currently run by sixth and seventh generations of the Empereur family: Laurence Renaux Empereur, whose canny curation has put the store on the global shopping map, and her son, Martin Guez Empereur.

It’s filled with all sorts of intriguing things, some 50,000 of them, many of which feel like thrilling discoveries, such as Papier d’Armenie, booklets of paper incense; woven pink Lamp Cable; and wooden-handled Cleaning Brushes for Electrical Outlets. And, yes, Maison Empereur has an extensive online shop. But most memorable for someone like me, who dreams of discovered rooms and time travel, is the thrill of exploring a living relic—one with next to no visible intrusions from the 21st century.

Photography courtesy of Maison Empereur.

martin guez stands in front of the family store with his mother, laurence renau 17
Above: Martin Guez stands in front of the family store with his mother, Laurence Renaux-Guez, and grandmother, Jeanne (who still works behind the scenes), looking on.

Maison Empereur has occupied the same block since the 1860s, but when Laurence took over, it had spread into four connected stores. She consolidated them into one location but preserved the twists and turns that lead from one department to the next. Laurence also published a book about the store and its history. And, this week, she opened a Maison Empereur pop-in in Paris: scroll to the end for a look.

maison empereur is a still a hardware store up front. it has been selling every 18
Above: Maison Empereur is a still a hardware store up front. It has been selling every size of Opinel folding knife since the company debuted in 1890: when you’re in the shop, look for the photo of the Opinel founder posing next to a knife taller than he is.
brass mail slots, door knockers, and a small sampling of the scrub brushes and  19
Above: Brass mail slots, door knockers, and a small sampling of the scrub brushes and cleaning cloths on offer.
market baskets, more brushes, and untouched old stone walls. 20
Above: Market baskets, more brushes, and untouched old stone walls.
the feather duster department. 21
Above: The feather duster department.
marseille soap every which way, is, of course, a shop staple. 22
Above: Marseille soap every which way, is, of course, a shop staple.
the center of the ground floor store is stacked with cookware. 23
Above: The center of the ground floor store is stacked with cookware.
there&#8\2\17;s a lovely in house café hidden in the back of the gro 24
Above: There’s a lovely in-house café hidden in the back of the ground floor.  And, a few years ago, Laurence and team opened an antiques-filled guest apartment right upstairs that’s available for rent.
the toy department. 25
Above: The toy department.
espadrilles and provencale fabric. 26
Above: Espadrilles and Provencale fabric.
upstairs, there&#8\2\17;s an entire department of traditional workwear. 27
Above: Upstairs, there’s an entire department of traditional workwear.

The Spring/Summer Pop-Up: Maison Empereur à Paris

the shop&#8\2\17;s just opened satellite is at le bon marché as part o 28
Above: The shop’s just-opened satellite is at Le Bon Marché as part of the department store’s Marseille-themed show up through August 18.
Best Browsing Frances Oldest Hardware Store and Home Emporium Now with a PopUp in Paris portrait 7
Above: Laurence brought her shop’s bestselling classic household goods to Paris.

Maison Empereur is at 4 Rue des Récolettes in Marseille.

Here are three more of our favorite stores in France:

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Frequently asked questions

Where is Maison Empereur located?

Maison Empereur is located at 4 Rue des Récolettes in Marseille.

Who runs Maison Empereur?

Maison Empereur is currently run by Laurence Renaux Empereur and her son, Martin Guez Empereur, who are the sixth and seventh generations of the Empereur family.

What kind of products can be found at Maison Empereur?

Maison Empereur carries a wide range of products including Papier d'Armenie, Lamp Cable, Cleaning Brushes for Electrical Outlets, Marseille soap, traditional workwear, cookware, toy department items, and more.

Is there an online shop for Maison Empereur?

Yes, Maison Empereur has an extensive online shop.

What is the motto of Maison Empereur?

Maison Empereur should adopt the motto, 'If we don't have it, you don't need it.'

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