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Archive for Thursday, September 24, 1998

FRENCH MARKET FINDS NICHE IN CITY

September 24, 1998

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The store is co-owned by two women who opened a store two years ago specializing in British products.

Talk about French cuisine usually conjures images of rich foods, quaint cafes and romance.

A new downtown shop hopes to have the same effect.

``It's really satisfying when somebody comes in and sees something they haven't eaten for years,'' said Lora Duguid, co-owner of au Marche at 19 W. Ninth St. ``They get so excited, and I know I'm stocking the right things.''

Selling European foods, cheeses, beverages and a bit of French porcelain, au Marche (in English, it's ``at the market'') has been a hit with people who miss items they recall from visits to France. It's also been popular with French expatriates yearning for flavors from home.

At the shop, open about a month, it's not unusual to walk into a conversation being carried on in French, about the items from France.

``I get to speak in French at least once a week,'' Duguid, 25, said after a French chat this week, ``and I enjoy it very much.''

She shares her customers' enthusiasm for her products.

``I lived in France,'' the Kansas University graduate says, ``studying abroad. When I came back, I missed some of the food that I'd eaten there. I had a couple of jobs and wasn't satisfied, so I thought being self-employed might be the answer.'' The idea for the shop was born.

Duguid owns the shop in partnership with Sally Helm and Susie Pryor, owners of Brits, another downtown shop that's found a niche selling products from another European country.

Since it opened in 1995, Brits has been successfully selling British foods, artwork, videos, music and clothing. Au Marche hopes to recreate that success with a French focus. Both stores fit into a national trend toward more popularity for ethnic and regional cuisines.

Duguid stocks her store mainly through import companies, she said, and her inventory is changing and growing as she takes suggestions from customers.

``I honestly don't know why some other stores don't carry the things we have,'' she says. ``We have some items that are coming off the shelves every day.''

Duguid runs the store with help from one part-time employee.

-- Richard Brack's phone message number is 832-7194. His e-mail address is rbrack@ljworld.com.

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