In Paris there’s a stretch of Rue Château D’eau that connects Boulevard de Strasbourg and Place de la Republique which has become the most recent strategically located strip in the middle of a capital city to succumb to gentrification.
Ten years ago, when I lived in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris, Château D’Eau, in the 10th arrondissement, was where I ventured only for a haircut. I’d wend my way through Belleville, stroll along the already reshaped Canal St Martin, down through Rue de la Grange aux Belles and spill out onto Château D’Eau where I had a pick of “salons” packed with customers getting all kinds of hair treatments on any day of the week. And when black friends came to town needing a touch up, the instructions were as follow: Exit at Château D’Eau metro station and as you ascend the steps onto Boulevard de Strasbourg, you’ll be met by a sea of African men, coiffeurs, leaning over the balustrade soliciting your business. We agreed, it looked like the intersection of the entire African continent confronting colonial French history.
Today, there are still vestiges of this old Paris, but this part of Château D’Eau — the other section traveling towards Rue du Faubourg St Denis has seen its own gentrification over the past decade — is an explosion of lifestyle concept stores, haute wine dispensaries, and a heap of service-oriented and tourist-friendly businesses.
At the beginning of this stretch, across from Marché Saint Martin (arguably the heartbeat structure on the block) and wrapping around to Rue Bouchardon, Les Saintes Chéries holds three storefronts selling everything from topiaries to jewelry to small batch leather bags. They set a lifestyle concept-store theme that extends down the block and throughout the neighborhood. Cultures Cave, Épicerie Fine and Impatience Mets & Vins are only three of the high-end wine stores on the strip. The latter done up in an Old World French style so chic, it could double as a Ladurée.
Historically, this stroll of Château d’Eau has also been the textile quarters. So it’s only fitting in this age to see many storefronts occupied by home furnishing and design-oriented companies. L ’Arbre Enchanté, in addition to selling curated knick-knacks for the home also sells a quirky selection of kids’ toys and hard-to-find gifts with a worldview. Billy The Kid, another boutique that marries a concept store for kids idea with home design sells everything from blow-up cacti to candy and one-off rainbow roller skates. Oh Oui is a jewel box of discovery. Surprises there include taxidermy inspired cards, leather key chains, to camping canteens. Pompon Bazar offers the most robust selection for the home. This mini ABC Home and Carpet like store sells heaps of rugs, macramé hanging lamps and is an emporium for mirrors and other home design accents. Meanwhile Jamini across the street is all patterned throws, sloganeering embroidered bags and hand-selected furniture curated by Usha Bora. Down the street, La Tresorerie’s sprawling space is a one-stop shop for all things home, kitchen and lighting.
There’s a balance of businesses in the neigborbood to ensure it pulses day and night. Centre5 is the pilates studio in the middle of the Rue. Hope and Yumi next door is your co-working café and juice bar. Onyriza is for gluten free pastries and L’Institut serves superb coffee. Smallville is there for all your vinyl and CD needs. Turn the corner onto rue Lucien Sampaix, and you will come across Belly Café and Pancake Sisters, two must-visits for an American breakfast and the easiest draw for tourists.
There’s no shortage of hipster dining in the neighborhood. Les Résistants is all rustic farm-to-table type, intimate dining. Jesusparadis offers courtyard seating, bohemian décor and entertainment deep into the night. You can spend the entire day soaking up café society at AntiCafe and Café Popote. And we love Yile Ramen, the tiny soup joint close to Boulevard de Magenta.
For clothing, menswear is better served. At the corner of Rue Pierre Chausson is Nomad’s Land, stocked with smart luxury basics for the discerning professional. Cub offers great variety in belts, footwear and tricked out military jackets, and Testeur de Commerce serves up a refreshing, affordable crop of vintage pieces, not always easy to find. Finish off the tour at Thanx God Im A VIP, the legendary party now epic vintage store on Rue de Lancry run by Sylvie Chateigner. This is one of the earlier boutiques to set up shop in the neighborhood and remains one of the best.