Parisians’ vacation yields unique shop in Aquebogue

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Matthieu and Laure Chatin outside their new store 'Espirit de France' on the Main Road in Aquebogue. The metal zebra was made in Mexico by artists using 'upcycled' materials.

Many North Fork residents head to Paris for a vacation. For former Parisian real estate agents Matthieu and Laure Chatin, the story was reversed.

The French couple and their children came to the North Fork in 2008 for a vacation after neighbors recommended the trip. They said they fell in love with the Sound, the wineries and the farmland and, a couple of years later, they bought a house and moved the family to Mattituck.

“It’s a land of contrast, the North Fork,” Mr. Chatin said. “[Now] we try to offer something different to the community.”

By “something different” Mr. Chatin means Esprit de France, the specialty shop he and his wife opened last week on Main Road in Aquebogue. The shop specializes in unique art created using recyclable goods.

The storefront, with its high ceilings and open windows, is tailor-made to sell unique hand-made, contemporary products, Mr. Chatin said.

During a tour of the shop at Saturday’s “soft opening,” he pointed out a vase created from a hollowed-out fire extinguisher and a pocketbook made from soda can lids. Baskets from Ghana line the walls and a giant zebra sculpture made from Mexican scrap metal stands outside the front door.

The Chatins call the reused artwork “upcycling.” The pieces have been gathered from around the world during the family’s travels, marking the “accomplishment of our international life,” Mr. Chatin said.

“I try to meet artists who have vision, who are very creative and who try to create all the time,” he said. “What you sell is also a story; you are telling how the product is done and where the product is coming from.”

Prices of the exotic goods range in price from $15 trinkets to lighting fixtures and sculptures costing more than $1,000.

“We would like to attract people from the North Fork and from the South Fork and from [New York] City,” Mr. Chatin said.

Mr. Chatin said the couple wanted to rent space for their store at first, but was unable to find a space everyone liked. Instead, they built a new store as an addition to an existing house.

The Chatins plan to rent a smaller structure behind the store to a local winery as a tasting room and are looking for a business like a coffee shop or artist’s gallery to occupy the unused space next to their store.

Despite their professional goals, Laure Chatin said the storefront and their journey to America was a family experience from the start.

“We thought it was a good time … to give the kids the opportunity to be bilingual, to live in a new country, to meet new people,” she said. “It was really the idea to share the project. It’s a family project.”

The Chatins said they will likely hold a grand opening celebration for their new store in the near future. Esprit de France is open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

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