Sometimes, even those of us who live in romantic Paris have to replace light bulbs, fuses, switches and other doo-hickeys best found in hardware stores. Some basic hardware items are sold in Monoprix, the supermarket chain that also sells “dimestore” items. There are local quincailleries (hardware stores) and bazaars, (“we-sell-everything” stores), scattered throughout the city. But where in Paris can one find that special 25W light bulb with krypton gas for a mini-socket? For hard to find items like this, in Paris, you basically used to have three choices.
First choice for hard-to-find hardware items used to be the basement of the BHV department store. It’s true, they do have everything there or, if not in the basement, on one of the upper floors. But, sometimes even “shopping etiquette” won’t get you very far with the BHV sales staff. Second choice was the basement of La Samaritaine, another department store, almost as good as BHV, but with a much nicer sales staff. However, they recently eliminated the home repair section, and many of the hardware departments are gone. Third choice was a branch of the hardware chain store Castorama, with two stores in Paris, one in the 17th and another in the 20th arrondissement. But, although large, I’m afraid that the sales staff rivals BHV in unfriendliness; they don’t always have those special items; and they are expensive. The best that can be said is that they distribute free Fiches Conseil (information brochures) on subjects including Planter et tailler un rosier (Planting and pruning rosebushes) and Poser un store à bandes verticales (Installing vertical blinds) actually quite useful if you read French. Other than that, check it out if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit Castorama.
Now, however, there is a fourth choice. Leroy Merlin has come to Paris. Leroy Merlin is a hardware chain store that used to be located exclusively outside of the city. Now, at last, Leroy Merlin has built a flagship store right in the middle of Paris, just opposite the Pompidou Museum, on the rue Rambuteau. Just look for the signs with “Passage de l’Horloge”, the name of the neighborhood where the store was built.
The inside of Leroy Merlin isn’t pretty, but as you enter, you can instantly admire the long line of oblong gift display tables, one after the other, running practically the length of the store (which is the size of a small football field). This display changes every few months, but (and I don’t know why) usually includes small, green porcelain turtles. The last time I was there, they also had large white porcelain roosters, in addition to baskets, high quality reproductions of paintings in frames, photo frames, dried flowers and more. As a matter of fact, if you’re at the end of your trip and still need to buy a few gifts for the folks back home, take a look at this section of the store for items usually found in gift stores and at very reasonably prices.
The rest of Leroy Merlin carries items and products for home repair and decoration, plus construction and gardening supplies and equipment. The handles and knobs department is really impressive, and they have picture frames, both made to order and pre-fab, welcome mats, bathroom supplies including toilet seats (one was real cute–it was covered with pictures of frogs). When I was last there, the tile department was packed as people studied the beautiful selection. They also carry fireplace equipment including grates, bellows and pokers.
On the first level of the basement are gardening supplies and plants such as bonsais, cactus, artificial flowers and flower pots in all sizes, shapes and colors. Leroy Merlin also has a selection of small garden statues, including gnomes (nains de jardin), frogs, rabbits and squirrels.
The lower level of the basement, immense, is filled with aisles for wall paper and paint, tools (power and manual), floor tiles and flooring, building supplies, bathroom fixtures such as shower stalls, toilets and bathtubs, plus shelves and wooden planks that can be cut to size in the back.
That said, it’s still always best to shop around. Case in point is my new blue rubber bathmat. First I looked at Leroy Merlin. Way too expensive. Then I went to La Samaritaine, only to find that the bathroom supplies department has been “suppressed” (suprimé) along with the home repair department. So, I broke down and went to BHV where I found just what I was looking for on the third floor for about 8 Euros. I thought I had done pretty well, only to find the same type of bathmat in a local bazaar called Giga Store for about 3 Euros. Just goes to show that you can’t win’em all. And, for that special 25 W krypton bulb for a mini-socket, I also ended up buying at BHV because the price was better than at Leroy Merlin. Then I saw an even better price at my local Monoprix which is being “upscaled.” Object lesson–for the best buy, do your research and look around. In Paris, I have found that, usually, no one store will have it all. But isn’t it nice
to shop in a store whose second name is the name of one of the greatest wizards of all time?
Leroy Merlin Beaubourg
52 rue Rambuteau
tel: 01 4454 6666
fax: 01 4454 6677
telephone assistance: 0 810 634 634 (local rates)
Monday to Saturday, 9 to 8
Jeanne Feldman, a Paris resident since 1991, has written a shopping guide: Best Buys and Bargains in Paris. To order Jeanne’s book: Click here.