[Alyson Kuhn] A couple of weeks ago, I reported on a fairly new paper shop in Paris, Georges & Co. (estd. 2011). Today, I am reporting on a very old chocolate enterprise (estd. 1819!) that I was—inexplicably—unaware of until the fourth day of my recent trip. I like to think that I have excellent shopping bag recall, and I don’t remember ever having seen this handsome bag being carried down the boulevard. But the bag, mes amis, is not how I found out about Foucher (rhymes with touché).
As it happened, I was at TexLibris, a company with which I had enjoyed some pleasant dealings in my papery past. Nowadays, TexLibris primarily sells luscious fabrics mounted on a stabilizing liner, for specialty packaging. (Above: I have vivisected my spanking new TexLibris swatchbook to demonstrate how easy it is to slice the fabrics with an X-acto. The flocking [seven patterns available] is applied in-house.) They also sell book papers—thus the name TexLibris—that are well-suited to covering boxes. Bon.
I was reminiscing with showroom manager Florent Macron about specialty papers from the good old days, when Deborah, my traveling companion and bakery researcher, spotted a captivating box in the display case: a Deco illustration of a well-coiffed lady in a frock and a lovely little border of charming flowers. I would have guessed a stationery box. Ah, non, pas du tout. A bonbon box. Monsieur Macron was politely incredulous that I was unaware of Foucher, the venerable Parisian chocolatier, and advised that we proceed there tout de suite. Five minutes later, he had drawn us the chocolate treasure map above.
But Monsieur Macron also strongly recommended that we take un petit détour, to see a dramatic new chocolate shop in a shopping arcade off the Place de la Madeleine, called Patrick Roger. Which we did, and you can see for yourself the imposing chocolate gorillas in the shop’s windows. I prudently resisted the temptation to investigate the gigantic chocolate pencils shown, in the slideshow, at two of Roger’s other Paris locations. Just because I know where to buy a mailing tube (tube à expédier) does not mean I should.
Information sheets provide details about the illustrations and artists of Foucher boxes. Left to right: Hawaii, illustrated by Raymond Stab (for a Foucher specialty, pineapple marzipan); Fruits de mon Jardin, by Jacqueline Duché, 1935; Noah’s Ark, 1931, was originally commissioned for the opening of the zoo in Vincennes in 1932—and reissued in honor of the zoo’s re-opening in 2012.
Back on track, we headed for the Avenue de l’Opéra…and beyond the lanes of traffic, glowing in the dark, we saw Chocolat Foucher, a beacon of bonbonnerie. Yes, we prudently waited for the light to change—and then, we rustled right in…to behold what seemed to be an infinitude of prepacked bonbons, each in a box with a complementary illustration. There were easily a couple of dozen different small boxes; bigger, deeper medium boxes; shallow square boxes; all containing different chocolate confections.
Deborah sank deep in dark-chocolate deliberation. I suggested that she might be able to get the bonbons she wants in the box she wants, even though this is not how they are normally sold. She inquired at the counter and received the delirious news that…we could buy empty boxes! I made up a word on the spot: bonbonanza! It’s actually a non-bonbonanza, or a sans-bonbonanza, but that is beside the point, which is that we could buy empty boxes.
While Deborah and her sister selected their boxes, I wallowed in postcards. The jumbo postcard (8 x 10 in.) above is a reproduction of a mural at Foucher’s exhibit at the Paris International Exposition of 1937. (Enjoy a dazzling array of 1937 panoramic footage here.) The mural showed five shops on the Right Bank (including the very one in which we were standing), the headquarters on the Left Bank, the factory in Arcueil (just outside Paris) and an outpost in Angers.
Two of my favorite post cards: a Medieval scene by Chéri Hérouard, 1913; and an illustration by Vasarely for the Paris International Exposition of 1937.
I visited Foucher’s Left Bank location (134 Rue du Bac) twice and enjoyed a wonderful chat with the hugely knowledgeable woman behind the counter, who offered me a full set of information sheets. On my first visit, I asked if I could buy a length of the shop’s imprinted ribbon. She gave me a length, in the color of my choice. L’orange, s’il vout plait. On my second visit, I repeated my request. The ribbon angel smiled and offered to give me an assortiment of scrap lengths! The sans serif lettering is raised and shiny and heavenly. I cherish my five colors of imprinted double-faced satin; plus dark chocolate satin with red lettering and a red satin underside, which makes a truly dazzling bow; plus greige linen with deep orange lettering. Quel bonheur! Foucher will celebrate its bicentennial in 2019, and I am already anticipatory.
Photos © 2013 StudioAlex.