Elvis and Jesus fans head to Paris’ 2nd
The abundance of single-item shops in Paris is miraculous. Stores that peddle bocce sets or electric razors and ONLY bocce sets or electric razors (yes both such places exist here) pepper the Parisian shopping arena. How on earth can these places support themselves? Haven’t the Walmarts of the world smoked them out yet?
It is thanks to French conservatism that such small-business gems have been able to survive. I noticed this first when I was walking around Etienne Marcel and discovered a shop dedicated to the art of making tassels. That’s all they made. Pretty silk tassels to dangle from curtains. A proud stamp was printed on the storefront stating, une enterprise de patrimonie vivant (EPV). Upon further inquiry I learned that this label meant that the Ministère de l’Economie, des Finances et de l’Industrie distinguished this particular establishment for its artisanal integrity and its french savoir-faire. It’s a beautiful thing to protect a country’s heritage, and in this case the art of passementerie, or tassel making.
Since that day I have taken great pleasure in seeking out curiously particular shops. Today, after a lunch at Saturne in the 2nd, the Swede and I wandered around the neighborhood. Next door to Saturne we found Elvis, My Happiness, a shop dedicated to all things Elvis; a mini Parisian Graceland if you will. There were records, cds, dvds, posters, watches, jewelry, promo Pepsi bottles, photo books, song books. You name it, they’ve plastered Elvis’ baby blue eyes and puffy cheeks on it. For those seeking a little rock ‘n’ roll for their otherwise drab library, there was even an Elvis bust:
I think I must have ticked off the owner when I asked if he had a single of “Surrender,” my favorite Elvis song. It was probably the only bit of Elvis memorabilia or discography missing from the shop. Zut!
We kept walking down rue Notre Dame des Victoires until the road opened up at Place des Petits-Pères. The Basilique Notre Dame des Victoires arose on our right, overlooking a small square. On the far side of the square was situated what appeared to be an antique toy shop. Once inside, I realized we were actually in a Christian paraphernalia shop. Everything Christ, Mother Mary, or some saint. The colorful “toys” in the window were actually figurines for creches of the nativity scene. There was even a small library, including a worshiper’s guide to Paris. Heck, devout Christians need guidebooks too!
The similarities and the proximity of the two shops struck me as beautifully ironic. They are essentially both mini-marts for idol worshippers, places to pick up the essential tools for reverence or the appropriate gifts for fellow devotees, like an autographed and authenticated Elvis suit or a brightly colored rosary.
Both Elvis and Jesus probably have a competitive number of fans today if you think about it, what with the modern decline in adherents of the Christian faith and the ever-increasing cult following of the King. Though neither shop boasted the EPV stamp of approval, I think they’re both doing well for themselves. Au Coeur Immaculé de Mairie was founded in 1850 and appears to be in, well, immaculate shape. As for Elvis My Happiness, the boutique itself is just a small part of a greater entity, the official Elvis fanclub of France to be precise.
So long as the King and the Son of God have a following, these stores are going to be just fine.
For the finest tassels in Paris: Declecq Passementiers, 15 Rue Étienne Marcel in the 1st
For more information about the Patrimonie Vivant honor.
For all your Elvis needs: Elvis My Happiness, 9 Rue Notre Dame des Victoires in the 2nd
For a colorful Christmas creche or a Christian guidebook to Paris: Au Coeur Immaculé de Mairie, 8 Rue Petits Pères in the 2nd