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France’s Oldest—and Most Esteemed—Hardware Store

Paris may have E. Dehillerin, France’s oldest kitchenware store, established in 1820, but Marseilles has Maison Empereur, a family-run institution opened in 1827 by Francois Empereur. The shop, overseen since 2000 by the decidedly discerning Laurence Guez, has the distinction of being the oldest hardware and cookware shop in the country; Guez is the sixth generation to carry on her family business.

All the essentials 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.

The shop is located in the heart of Marseille in a trio of storefronts; 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.
Above: The shop is located in the heart of Marseille in a trio of storefronts; 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.
Maison Empereur
Above: Locally made Savon de Marseille (another area institution) and a display of woven striped towels.
Maison Empereur
Above: The cotton Maison Empereur Tea Towel is 5.90 Euros.
Maison Empereur
Above: Among the wares: classic French toys, including music boxes, playing cards, and string fishing nets.
Maison Empereur
Above: More pans for every occasion (blinis, crepes, chestnuts, and an oval Poele í Poisson for fish).
Maison Empereur Kitchen Tool
Above: A Maison Empereur Nut Gatherer tool is 62.90 Euros.
Maison Empereur
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.
Maison Empereur
Above: Traditional enamel sinks and porcelain fixtures on display in the bathroom section. Note the hammocks strung from the ceiling in the distance.

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 Provení§al Winery.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on September 24, 2014.

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