Shopkeepers of Paris

Part of the charm of Paris is was that it is was a city full of les petit commercants. To buy your food you have to visit the local boulangerie, boucherie or poissonerie, alimentation, and fromagerie. Then, when you are tired with all the shopping, you need to stop by the local cafe, go back to the vigneron, and stop by the tabac to pick up a newspaper. And all of them will be ready for a little chat.

The charming central city which de Gaulle reconstructed out of the war: no buildings higher than 32 meters, facades to remain as original as possible, and low rentals, is a wonderful place for tourists. Everything at street level must have been bombed out, because if you looked only at eye level, every door and window looks modern. Although some of the shopkeepers take the metro to work, coming in from the suburbs which have more flexible building rules, there is a sense of local community. Over years, when I returned, I would pick up my acquaintance with the local caviste and fromagier.

After a year’s absence it would be nice to come back to the same cafe, where the unsmiling bartender would put a saucer on the bar in front of you and ask, “The same?”. I guess I was not easily forgotten with my newspaper and Petit Robert at one corner of the bar. In a strange and interrupted way, I became a local in one part of the border between the 5th and 14th arrondisements for a few years.

These photos were taken in the streets which I would pass through. I see now that these photos all feature non-European French. In those days all it required to be accepted as French was that you spoke the language and liked bread, wine, and cheese. These are not the shops I frequented. As so often in the days before phone cameras, one didn’t take photos of the most familiar places. I have no photos of the Parisian shopkeepers whom I knew well. They slowly went out of business, replaced by the chains of supermarkets which have now taken over the city. I don’t really miss this new city any more.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

17 comments

  1. A bitter-sweet memory.
    We had such shops in Bucharest too, when I grew up. If I close my eyes I still know them. I would but CO2 chargers for my parents’ (vintage) soda siphon, or buy myself an ice-cream (a slab wrapper in paper, mind you, nothing fancy), or bread, Turkish delight and halva by the 100gr, freshly ground coffee…
    Never took photos either.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. They tasted so much better when I was a child, I am sure of it. They were sold over the counter, you could have your pick among jewels in a bed of sugar.
        You have to shop around these days, and in a supermarket. They come in a box. Deceitful, some, as what’s on the cover is not always inside – flavor wise. And they are sweet, lacking aroma.
        Some taste artificial and are different from the flavorful of the original Turkish delight.
        But, yes, they are easy to get. Maybe where we still use them in cooking, at least twice a year, for Easter and Christmas, we make “cozonac”, a sweet dough kind of bread, but a desert. With Turkish delight, pecan nuts or cocoa filling 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Corona must change it even more I guess; it’s difficult to keep a store open when people aren’t allowed to go out and buy things. On the other hand, where I live people try to support their local stores extra, because they realise they might disappear otherwise. I’m not sure how long that will last though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stopping at a boulangerie or fromagerie to pick up supplies is so stereo-typically Paris I do hope to get there one day and d it myself 😀
    Sadly I think this pandemic may be the kiss of death for a lot of these small local businesses, all over the world. I do hope I’m wrong on that 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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