The one-stop destination - Issue 107 - Magazine | Monocle

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Company: Merci
Location: Paris
Founded: 2009
Offices around the world: 100

Arthur Gerbi doesn’t like the “c” word. The owner of Merci, Paris’s must-visit emporium, says, “The phrase ‘concept store’ doesn’t mean anything anymore.” He adds that, today, most shops could brand themselves with the “concept” label. What he’s aiming to do now is offer customers what he describes as a “moment”. “We intend Merci to be somewhere you want to visit,” he says. “A website or a photo on Instagram will never give you what you experience here.”

An expansive shop spread over three floors, Merci primarily sells clothing and homeware, though that’s only half the story: there’s also a hardware store, a canteen and a cosy café with a secondhand book shop. “I like to think of Merci as what Americans call a ‘general store’,” he says.

In more ways than the c-word, Merci is a business in transition. Opened in 2009 by Bernard and Marie-France Cohen, the shop was an immediate hit among Parisians and notably donated its profits to charities in Madagascar. After the Gerbi family bought the shop four years ago, Arthur wanted to keep the spirit of the shop alive while also making sure they didn’t remain static (he says that Merci still invests in charities, though not all of its profits are now given away; some are invested back into the business). He has also started experimenting with other designers, lines and exhibits; he’s excited to try out new things.

As such, Merci’s stock can seem eclectic. But it’s a purposeful contrast to the slick retailers that are ubiquitous in today’s major cities, with spaces and products that all resemble one another. “New York is really scary now in terms of retail – nothing is new,” says Gerbi. “There’s no more creativity, there are no accidents.”

Those successful accidents not only require the taking of risks but also putting together a team like Gerbi’s: imaginative and up for trying out new things. “The whole group is like a kibbutz,” he says. “We think of the store as an everlasting project.”

Arthur Gerbi

Owner/CEO, Merci

The 31-year-old entrepreneur has long juggled multiple ventures, including property development and launching a co-working space. But he has always had a passion for retail – he says it runs in his blood (his parents founded the womenswear brand Gerard Darel). Since 2013 he has been overseeing Merci though he doesn’t like titles. “I hate the word ‘president’: it sounds like someone who never visits the office and spends his time on the golf course,” he says. “My role is to make things happen.”

Mathias Allet Bellul Restaurant director
“Today everyone is trying to do food like Merci. Mathias, along with his mother Sylvie Potier, has always eaten and cooked health food.”

Jules Mesny Deschamps Managing partner
“We were in the same class at school. I hated him for the first two years but since then we’ve always been together. If Merci were a football team he’d be the one who always scores the goal.”

Léa Baratian PR
“For a long time Merci didn’t have a PR.Then we met and fell in love professionally. She’s a great ambassador for the store.”

Laurence Leclerc Home department director and buyer
“If you come to Merci, we want it to feel like a home not a shop. She helps create that feeling.”

Marcel Lassance Menswear buyer
“He’s a businessman and a true artist.”

Anais Doan Shop manager
“She brings a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the place. She welcomes everyone.”

Valerie Gerbi Fashion department director and buyer
“I’ve been working with Valerie for three years now and she’s a great designer and stylist. She’s also married to my brother.”

Massake Sangole Floor manager
“She brings a great energy to the place.”

Daniel Rozensztroch Artistic director
“He’s been with Merci from the start. He’s like an anthropologist: he understands what’s happening in society.”

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