Sometimes you discover a shop that exceeds all your expectations, one that makes the detour worth it all by itself. Maison Empereur in Marseille is such a find. Established in 1827 by Eugène Bolfras, this hardware store is an institution in Marseille and the surrounding areas. Once you step across the threshold, it’s like stepping back in time. More than 30,000 products, divided over various departments, await you in a retro setting where service is still king. Don’t miss it when you’re in Marseille!
I found out about Maison Empereur via local friends who know I love cooking. So, when I entered the store, I was expecting a kitchenware shop. Therefore, I was a little puzzled when instead I walked past a wall stocked with beautiful cubes of real Marseille soap. And continuing on my path brought me to the most fantastic hardware, cleaning products and brushes that seemed to come from a bygone era. What kind of shop was this?!
Since François Empereur took over the hardware store in the 19th century, his family have continued to run Maison Empereur for six generations. Right up to today! In French, this type of store has a fantastic name: ‘quincaillerie’. I love the sound of this word, and to me, it perfectly describes their diverse merchandise. You can find just about everything at Maison Empereur, from kitchen utensils, general hardware and toys to traditional clothing, tableware and home textiles. If you can’t find it here, you won’t find it anywhere!
Kitchen utensils heaven
Once I was done marvelling over the enticing products I saw on the first floor, I stepped around a corner to find myself in kitchen utensil heaven. Everything you could wish for was beautifully displayed. And more! From pots and pans in all sizes to cookie cutters and cake tins in every shape imaginable. Maison Empereur is also well known for their knife shop, where you can get the real professional cooking shizzle. And don’t forget the tableware, utensils, glasses, vinegar maker jars, and so on… Words cannot describe this cave of wonders, it is definitely a shop you have to experience for yourself.
After a fair amount of time, I found out there was a second floor full of surprises. Things I didn’t know you could buy anymore and things I didn’t know existed. Via the enchanting vintage-style toys, I went to the home textiles department, followed by the lighting section, without forgetting the cupboard with drawers filled with original doorknobs. All of it good old fashioned, high quality. I literally spent hours in Maison Empereur, finding new surprises around every corner. Conclusion: with all of their desirable products, Maison Empereur is a highly dangerous shop for your wallet, but a definite must go if you’re in Marseille.