Out here in the boonies, it can be difficult to find the good stuff. Anybody knows to go to Amazon or Ebay or to buy it in Paris and have it shipped. I do all that, then I watch Netflix when neither French TV nor the Freebox have anything good on. The world isn’t local any more. But sometimes you want something that reflects a sense of place — this specific place, the one where you happen to find yourself. Here are some places I have found in and around Vendee where the stuff and the people are so good that it just doesn’t make sense to go elsewhere.
Couleurs & Co.: Rosnay. Mathias sells furniture refurbished in a pretty high-end shabby chic style, both the old-school wooden variety and the new-school more industrial look. I’m no shabby chic fan but I do like his stuff. He sells at a number of locations and also through retailers, notably on the Ile de Ré. He doesn’t have a shop with regular hours but once in a while he has an open house at his workshop. Location and other info are on his web site.
Demeure 1823: 4 place René Groussard, Melle. This guy sells beautiful house and garden decorative items, a mix of old and new. I always find something I like. The shop is right in the center of town.
Diremszian: Luçon — Back in the day, this was the place to go for all your organic produce, fine teas and general cool stuff. A lot of people sell organic food now, so the shop doesn’t have the business it once did. However, from what I have found, this is the public face of the counterculture in Vendee. I got a fabulous pendulum there and love to go for unique and delightful things for the house. While I’m at it I pick up a bit of Mariage Freres tea. To find it, follow the signs to the port. It’s a joke, I think, as I have never found the port, but with any luck you will find the shop, which is painted bright purple and is right on the corner. It’s a bit like finding Diagon Alley. Good luck.
Roger Stowell: When I first moved here I thought it would be nice to find a photography group to join — work on my French, take a few pictures, be social, why not. It didn’t happen but somehow Google turned up Roger Stowell, a brilliant photographer who had quite a successful career in London and retired to a spot just a short distance away. Roger photographs the area in a way that I only wish I could. These days I am more likely to buy one of his photos than print one of my own. He has an online shop and posts to Instagram almost daily.
L’AtelierduCadre: 62 avenue de Limoges, Niort. Emilie, who runs this shop, is the best framer I know. She is better than my framer in San Francisco and a fraction of the price. She has a great eye and is expanding the focus of her business to include things she finds beautiful. There is a bit of a gallery, of course, but also Breton art glass and Ressources paint. I love going here. I look for things that need framing, just so I can stop in and see what is new.
OwenDuggan: no longer local but still very good. Owen designs, builds and refurbishes lamps and light fixtures. Look for uniquelightingco on Etsy. His own designs are quite modern but he appreciates old fixtures and does a great job of restoring them. Owen ships worldwide.
Pierre Garandel: 19 rue Brisson, Niort. I have gotten good hostess gifts, but none better than a box of this guy’s chocolate truffles. Pick up a few for yourself, while you’re at it.
The Marsdens: 20 rue de l’Industrie, Le Langon (by appt., contact info on the site). This English couple are a chiropractor and his wife, a nurse who does all manner of other alternative-healing-type stuff. I have never seen Nicholas, the chiropractor. I can absolutely swear by Lesley. Give me that good-old-time reiki any day, especially if it starts with reflexology and comes with a side of chakra healing. I’ll spare you the old-lady catalog of ailments she has taken care of. I’ll just tell you I’m doing better, thanks. And if it’s all placebo that’s okay with me.
Vergers de Vendee: various locations. These folks started by selling their apples. Their selection has expanded to include all kinds of locally produced food, some house-made, some from local artisanal suppliers. The prices are quite reasonable and the quality is first-rate.